Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2016.9
These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of over 900 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood. YMMV.
- Bullitt (1968) — 6/10
Steve McQueen and Jaqueline Bisset star in this at-first groovy movie with a kickin’ soundtrack. The bass line starts thumping during the credits and sets a tone that the rest of the movie doesn’t sustain. Robert Vaughn, Robert Duvall, Norman Fell are here as well. Frank Bullitt (McQueen) and his partner are charged with guarding a witness. They set him up in a safe house. An unknown assailant attacks the safe house, getting in because the chain was mysteriously off the door. Bullitt’s partner is shot and so is the witness.
The pacing is pretty slow, We’re half an hour in and that’s all that’s happened so far. They’ve spent ten minutes getting the injured police officer to the hospital and into surgery. Nearly ten minutes later and they’re still in the hospital—Chalmers (Vaughn) has made Bullitt 100% aware that he considers the whole fiasco to be his fault. Also, he drops some racism on the black doctor, telling a nurse to remove him from the case because he’s “too young”. Bullitt is bizarrely in the snack area—ICUs had those in the 60s?—munching on a Wonder Bread and Nutella sandwich. The Nutella jar hasn’t changed a damned bit.
The movie seems to revolve around a single (now dead) witness and Bullitt’s refusal to let Chalmers figure out where he is—because Bullitt is convinced that he can make the bad guys come out of the woodwork. And crawl out they do, for a 15-minute car chase through San Fransisco that must have been seriously amazing at the time, and still isn’t bad now, but drags on a bit. Still it serves to show off old San Fransisco.
OMG Jaqueline Bisset has lines! I thought she was mute, poor thing.
Now they’re at an airport. How exciting! The guy they thought they were chasing is a different guy but now they’re chasing him. People are running everywhere. Run, run, run. Close-up of Steve McQueen’s baby blues. Ross sees he’s being chased, he shoot a security guard. Bullitt shoots him. The end. The best thing about this movie was the opening credits, with the thumping soundtrack. Those were awesome.
- Lolita (1962) — 6/10
This is Stanley Kubrick’s black-and-white filming of Humbert Humbert and his darling Lolita. The initial credits roll over a male hand painting a young girl’s delicate toenails. James Mason is Professor Humbert Humbert. In the very first scene, he walks into a messy mansion to find a drunken Clare Quilty, played wonderfully by Peter Sellers. Sellers’s acting makes this scene lunatic and parodic rather than as tense and scary as in Adrian Lyne’s version, where Quilty was played by Frank Lagella and Humbert by Jeremy Irons. Lyne ended on that scene where Kubrick starts with it and plays the rest of the film as a flashback.
Four years earlier, Humbert is on his way to Ohio to start a lectureship at Beardsley College. He takes a room from Charlotte Haze, played by Shelley Winters. We meet Lolita lounging in the backyard in a bikini. Humbert takes the room. The next scenes show Humbert integrating into home life, watching a drive-in movie with one girl to each side and hands all over his knees. He plays chess with Mama whileLolita kisses him lingeringly goodnight. Lolita hula-hoops while Humbert pretends to read poetry.
This version is much smirkier and dirtier than the more somber Lyne version. At an extended dance/party/mixer scene, all of Haze’s friends are swingers or speaking nearly purely in double entendrés. At one point Haze tells Quilty that Lolita will be seeing his uncle Ivar, a dentist, “where she’ll get a cavity filled.” Quilty (Sellers) looks temporarily taken aback, then smiles filthily and says “Yee-esss, of course.” Nothing beats James Mason’s voice, though. I can’t believe he’s not faking it. It’s perfect for lines like when Lolita comes back early to interrupt her mother’s putting the moves on Humbert—with a sledgehammer—he tells her that they “Oh we had a wonderful evening; your mother created a wonderful spread.” When Lolita says she’s hungry, Humbert offers her something, but her Mom tells her “all right, but you take it upstairs and after you’ve eaten it, you go right to sleep.” Humbert comes back with the sandwich and says “it’s loaded with mayonnaise, just the way you like it.” OMG Phrasing everywhere in this movie.
The story is the same and some of the scenes are the same as well. For example, after Humbert agrees to marry Haze, they’re in bed together and he maintains ardor by gazing at the photo of Lolita over her shoulder. They have further strife, she finds his journal, she sees what’s going on with his love of her daughter and spite for herself. One thing leads to another and she kills herself by leaping in front of an onrushing car.
Humbert goes to pick up Lolita from camp—and they both know why. They end up at a hotel and must settle for a single room with a single bed. Sellers shows up again as Quilty, motor-mouthing his way through a long scene whereby he, in a very roundabout manner, suggests that Humbert is sleeping with Lolita—wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean? Sellers appears in several roles, notably as Dr. Zempf from Lolita’s school, exhorting Humbert to allow Lolita more freedom—all in a ridiculous German accent, all the while talking of “we Americans”. Sellers is the best part of this movie.
Humbert finally has a serious, jealousy-driven falling-out with Lolita, which deviates a bit from the later incarnation. Lolita is quite controlling, but more overtly resistant to Humbert.
She ends up in the hospital with a flu. Humbert is very nervous that she will divulge something about their lifestyle. After waiting interminable days, he goes to the hospital to get her, only to find that her “uncle” had checked her out first. Instead of sympathizing with him or being horrified that they had allowed an underage girl to leave with just anyone, the hospital staff act as if he’s psychotic because he doesn’t take the news well that his daughter has been released into the custody of an unknown man. They tackle him and want to commit him to a sanitarium. His natural nervousness doesn’t help so perhaps that gets their hackles up, but it’s very strange.
When he finds her again, three years later, she is married, but not to Quilty, who’d taken her away as her “uncle”, but to another, younger man. She is supposedly six months pregnant. I say supposedly because she doesn’t look even a month pregnant. He goes from there to Quilty’s home and we close the loop of the flashback.
I like the one with Jeremy Irons better, although Peter Sellers did his best in this one, James Mason was a bit too whiny.
- Chungking Express (1994) — 8/10
This is a very stylized Chinese movie about a young police officer and a mysterious woman. She seems to be trading cash for passports of Indian men and is involved in some seriously shady dealings. It’s not clear what she’s up to, but she’s deep in with the Indian community in Hong Kong. He’d been jilted on April 1st and had given his girlfriend 1 month to realize the error of her ways. He buys cans of pineapple that expire on May 1st because (A) that’s what his ex-girlfriend May likes and (B) it’s his birthday and (C) that’s the day she’s supposed to reveal that their breakup was a joke. May 1st rolls around and she fails to appear.
He eats all the pineapples. He also gets drunk, super-drunk. He meets the mysterious woman, who’s on the run after having had a smuggling operation go sour. She grudgingly hangs out with him and they end up in a hotel together. She passes out and he orders takeout and watches old movies. He goes jogging the next day, to get the water out of his body without crying, as he says. She pages him to wish him a happy birthday. Next we see the lady approach the guy who double-crossed her and shoot him in cold blood.
Scene two: different cop. Missed connections. He’s at the same lunch counter where the first cop used to hang out, waiting for May. There’s a new girl, Faye, and the new cop, 633, is slowly falling in love with her. His other girlfriend left him a note and his keys and Faye took them. She sneaks into his apartment—a cop’s place!—and rearranges stuff for him. She makes his bed with new sheets, she relabels his cans, she cleans his apartment, she deletes phone messages from his old girlfriend. She also leaves the a faucet open and nearly floods his apartment.
Good soundtrack. Whimsical. I really like Kar-Wai Wong as a director (he also directed In the Mood for Love and 2046). Tony Leung is really good. Shots, colors, framing, all lovely. The soundtrack is fantastic (as the one for 2046 was, but this time with a lot blues instead of classical). Recommended.
- Dead Man (1995) — 7/10
Jim Jarmusch directed this black-and-white movie about an accountant named Bill Blake (Johnny Depp). Blake travels out west to a small mining town. He has left all that he knows behind and used his last funds to respond to a job offer. On the train, Crispin Glover sets the tone as a madcap train conductor. When he arrives, they laugh at him and tell him that the job had been filled a month ago. Dickenson, the owner (Robert Mitchum) and John Hurt as his front-office man, throw him out. That he took two months to respond to his acceptance letter Blake’s his own fault. Depp plays Blake as utterly hapless and bewildered.
Dejected and bereft of purpose, Blake wanders through the filthy town, finally ending up in a saloon where his last few cents purchase a tiny bottle of spirits. Rather than stay under the eyes of the bizarre townspeople, he goes outside. The town’s filth and uncouth inhabitants remind of scenes from Hard to be a God. He makes the acquaintance of a young lady Thel, who takes him back to her room. They wake up together when her boyfriend Charlie (Gabriel Byrne) storms in. Charlie shoots her and Bill shoots him. It is the first time he’s fired a gun and now he’s a murderer. He takes to the road, fleeing. His chest aches where the bullet that passed through Thel struck him as well.
Charlie was Charlie Dickenson, and senior is furious. He hires three gunman to exact revenge. Michael Wincott as the garrulous Conway Twill, Lance Henriksen as the silent and cannibalistic Cole Wilson and Eugene Byrd as Johnny Pickett. Their numbers drop from three to two to one, as Cole kills the others, for being useless in Pickett’s case and annoying/delicious in Wilson’s.
They are hot on Blake’s trail, but Blake has been joined by “Nobody” a native American without a tribe. He will accompany him on his final journey (he recognizes the gravely wounded Blake as already dead). He also thinks that Bill Blake is the poet William Blake, whom he cites at length. On the trail, various mishaps occur, Blake racks up a string of kills—all by accident—including Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton (poachers) and Alfred Molina (shopkeeper).
Bill Blake goes on a vision quest and ends up at the shore of a river, where a native American tribe loans him a sea canoe with which to drift off into oblivion. The last thing Blake sees is Cole Wilson and Nobody shooting each other to death. He drifts away. Everyone is dead. The end.
- Drugstore Cowboy (1989) — 7/10
Gus Van Sant directed this movie about a gang of four friends by necessity who rob drugstores to get morphine and other drugs. It’s 1971. They hit a store, get a good supply, but the cops follow the trail back to them. Luckily they hid the drugs in the backyard so, while the cops flip their entire house upside-down, they don’t find anything and leave. Matt Dillon is the ringleader Bob, married to Dianne (Kelly Lynch). James Le Gros and Heather Graham round out the crew as Ricky and Nadine.
To get back at the cops and to get them off their trail, Bob writes them a letter giving them an anonymous tip about a connection between Bob and his neighbor. It’s fictitious, though. When the stakeout sees Bob talking to his neighbor, they think they’re onto something. Bob, however, is telling his neighbor that someone’s spying on his wife. When a cop gets up on a ladder to look in the window that night, the neighbor shoots the cop with a shotgun.
The cops (with leader James Remar) show up to beat the crap out of him for the setup, then pretty much run him out of town. He claims that he and his crew have moved on on their own, though, because he’s a junkie with delusions of grandeur. In the next town, they find a drugstore with an open transom and rip it off without a hitch. Their next hit is a hospital, where they again use distraction—cars running wild in the parking lot—to draw attention away from Bob, who’s breaking into medicine cabinets inside. Things go awry: Bob is injured, but crawls home the next morning, sans drugs. Nadine has overdosed massively, taking a lot of their existing stash with her.
This is Bob’s cue to straighten up and fly right. He begs Dianne to come with him, but she can’t give it up. He takes enough to get home, leaving the rest with her. At home, he signs up for a methadone program, gets a job and a tiny apartment. He also rekindles his friendship with Father Tom, played beautifully by William S. Burroughs, a real-life heroin addict. Dianne visits soon after, but she doesn’t stay and she’s now hooked up with Ricky and part of his gang. Max Perlich is an old friend, David, also a dealer. The cop who originally ran him out of town now wishes him the best, but warns him that the cop he tricked his neighbor into shooting is still looking for revenge. Bob is resigned to it. David beats the cop to that punch, breaking into Bob’s apartment to steal his stash, then beating on him and finally shooting him. We see him Bob the ambulance on the way to the hospital, dreaming of the wonderful drugs there. No escape.
- Southpaw (2015) — 7/10
Jake Gyllenhall is BIlly Hope, light-heavyweight world champion with a 43–0 record, lots of tattoos, a lovely, devoted wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and a cute daughter whom he loves above all else. He has matching tattoos on his forearms: “Fighter” and “Father”. They also have a mansion, lots of cars and a lavish lifestyle. He and Maureen clawed their way out of Hell’s Kitchen, and a bunch of his current crew/entourage comes from there as well. 50 Cent plays his manager, who worked with him for 10 years. There is another fighter Miguel, a Colombian, who’s itching to get a title shot and 50 Cent wants to provide it.
Maureen has asked Billy to step it back, though, because his fighting style, while effective, usually results in him being beaten nearly to death—think Seth “the Battling Pict” Slingerland—but he always comes back because he uses anger at his pain to fuel him to victory. Ok, fine. But he’s still a bit slurry and chronically injured from the beatings. We see how painful it is, even for the victor, in the days after a fight.
At a benefit dinner, Miguel and his crew confront Billy, demanding a shot, which Billy ignores until Miguel insults Maureen. They bare-fist fight—horrifying because Hope’s face is still ruined from his last fight—until there is a shot: one of Hector’s goons has pulled a gun and fired by accident, injuring Maureen fatally. Billy spirals out of control. He drinks, he does drugs, he hunts down Miguel to his apartment, where he discovers that he is also a father. Billy slinks away.
He tries to fight again, but loses, head-butting a referee and basically being the exact idiot that Maureen always prevented him from being. He is suspended for a year from fighting, sued by the referee and becomes deeply indebted for his lavish lifestyle, etc. etc. He finally crashes his car, out of his mind on booze and drugs, after which his daughter Leila is taken away from him.
Leila is pissed at him for putting her in foster care. Billy has nothing at all anymore. He seeks out Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker, who is transcendent) as a trainer, but Wills will only take him on to clean the gym at night. First lesson is humility. From there, it’s kind of a Rocky/Karate Kid vibe as Billy re-learns how to box not like a defenseless idiot but like a real boxer. Billy sought out Tick because he says that Tick trained the only guy who ever beat him. Wills is confused because Billy won that fight. Billy tells him it’s because 50 Cent fixed it.
Billy’s first fight is a charity gig for wounded veterans, where he doesn’t need a license to box. He successfully tries out his new-found skills. He shows responsibility, 50 Cent contacts him for a fight against Miguel (who he’s now managing) in six weeks, Leila is returned to him. Things are looking up. Tick is reluctant to train Billy professionally, but agrees after they bond through shared suffering over the death of a young kid from the gym, Hoppy.
The final matchup is pretty good, although touted as more of a defensive contest than it really was. It was more of a slugfest than fights usually are, with too little defense from both sides, but at least had some, which is more than Hope showed in the other two fights we saw or than we ever saw from Rocky. Spoiler alert: Hope wins with a left-handed uppercut.
- Funny Games (2007) — 5/10
- I guess this is a horror movie in the genre of “this could happen to you” but I didn’t believe it. A family—husband, wife and son—goes on vacation to their house on a lake. Soon after they arrive, a strange young man appears to borrow eggs. He’s unfailingly polite, but he’s a moron, a klutz. He’s also wearing ridiculous white gloves that just scream “I don’t want to leave fingerprints”. He’s just there to distract and to gain entry to the home. Soon after he drops the eggs for the second time, his friend appears and now they’re both in the home. For whatever reason, the mother doesn’t throw them out or get backup. The unbelievable part is that she doesn’t sense the menace, or that she really would be too polite not to express something. Is it because they’re white? They have such cunty faces—the casting call must have explicitly mentioned this trait—and are so mealy-mouthed, that you should be able to sense something a mile away. But I guess that’s how con-men work.
- One of them breaks the father’s leg with a golf club and they have control. Just like that. No resistance. Now they can play “funny games” for the rest of the movie. Tim Roth and Naomi Watts were wasted in this predictable hash. This was an American remake of Michael Haneke’s original from 1997, but given the source material, it’s hard to imagine that that one was more interesting. This is the genre of “bad guys in control, while everyone else cries for two hours”. The only twist in this film is that there is no comeuppance. Also, one of the kidnappers breaks the fourth wall, which felt hackneyed. I see the experiment as a study of desensitization to media violence—as Haneke originally intended—but the film is otherwise unmoored from motive. Not recommended.
- The Fountainhead (1949) — 7/10
Gary Cooper is Howard Roark, a skilled architect and principled to the core. He finally gets a commission because they like his work, but they ask him to just compromise a little bit, adding some baroque elements to appease the desires for people who aren’t architects. If you’ve read the book by Ayn Rand, then you’ll recognize much of the text. Architecture is done by each man subordinating himself to the collective. Ha! Even the utterly byzantine and stilted dialogue and personal interaction has been transposed from page to screen.
Patricia Neal is an heiress of a newspaper empire who falls in love with Roark’s awesomeness on the building site, where he works when he can’t get design work. She stands above him, wearing jodhpurs and holding a riding crop, while he stands cockily down below, knowing she’ll come to him. She gets him into her room by deliberately breaking her fireplace and getting him to fix it. Quite a courtship dance. “The wider your eyes the better the acting” should be on her tombstone. “If it’s not violent and doesn’t involve female submission, then it’s not courtship” should have been on Ayn Rand’s.
Long story short: Roark sticks to his guns, does everything his way or the highway, doesn’t accept input from anyone because everyone else in the entire world is a moron, gets his greatest enemy to be his greatest supporter, gets the same guy’s wife to be deliriously in love with him. He even gets Peter, a crap architect who kept getting his contracts because he had no spine, to beg him to do his work for him on a spectacular new project. When Peter allows changes to Roark’s designs, Roark blows up the building because they ruined it. At his trial, the accusers put him on trial not for having blown up a public building, but for not bowing down. OMG Ayn Rand, the world was so simple for you. His best buddy and former enemy runs his newspaper into the ground trying to defend Roark. Roark does a bit of a Galt-like speech, though dozens of pages shorter. This line was pretty funny:“Thousands of years ago the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light, but he left them a gift they had not conceived of, and he lifted darkness off the earth. (Emphasis added.)”
Still a bit long, though. Rand never met a paraphrasing she didn’t like. Also, Cooper didn’t even smirk when delivering that line, which is the worst thing about Rand’s world: it has no fucking sense of humor. In the end, Roark is declared not guilty, which is ridiculous because he was guilty of blowing up the building, Wyman commissions him to build the Wyman building, tallest in the city and then Wyman kills himself, making way for Roark to marry his wife. Everything’s coming up Howard.
I think the story is decent, but the film is not very good. The book is much better. And anything is better than Atlas Shrugged. Some of the dialogue is pretty cheesy, but the point it’s trying to make is a good one? It’s hard to describe. Some parts felt a bit like Gone with the Wind. The concepts are decent and have a grain of truth worth defending to them, but they’re so simply framed, too black and white. Not recommended—read the book instead.
- The Conversation (1974) — 7/10
Gene Hackman stars as Harry, a cop in this beautifully shot and rendered 1970s movie about domestic surveillance. Yes, from 1974. The U.S. has always struggled with tyranny and hasn’t been free for a long time. Ah, no wonder it’s so pretty: Francis Ford Coppola directed it.
Harry has a difficult time separating work from his private life. He’s very secretive about himself, sensing the irony. Even with his girlfriend Amy (Teri Garr), he doesn’t want to open up. On his 42nd birthday, she pries too much for his taste and he leaves. She tells him that she won’t wait anymore. Holy crap! There’s Harrison Ford, pre-Star Wars! In profile, he looks eerily like Aaron Eckart—or Aaron Eckart looks eerily like a young Harrison Ford, I suppose.
Harry runs through conversations of a couple he’s been following, and starts to suspect that something more is going on than just a standard trace. He thinks they’re being targeted for murder. His room of equipment is awesome, all old-school tape-drive tech. It looks like the Hamilton College radio station before the upgrade in 1993. God I’m old. The surveillance-technology expo is also very interesting. It’s like watching old James Bond movies. This is probably how our amazing 21st-century technology will look to people in 2050 or 2060. At any rate, Harry’s quite famous in his field, as an independent surveillance specialist. He’s more of a PI than a cop, selling his services to law enforcement. The demos then look the same as now, complete with booth babes.
From the expo, a bunch of the guys head out for drinks, then end up at Harry’s shop. Though they call his equipment outdated, they’re all jealous of his skills and his reputation. In particular, they press him for information on how me managed to record a conversation back in ‘68, on a boat way out away from shore.
Even his latest assignment for the couple is a work of art. Two people in a crowd, moving around a park, not sitting, not predictable. Harry takes the opportunity in the change in conversation to lead them away from ‘68, especially Bernie, an old colleague from New York, who’s absolutely desperate to team up. When he discovers that Bernie used a high-tech pen to spy on Harry that evening—when Harry was spilling his heart out to a girl—Harry gets pissed and throws everyone out. The audio of the couple continues to haunt him as he and the girl hook up, but always the couple he’d followed haunts him.
The girl, however, was hired by Martin Stett (Harrison Ford) and she absconds with the recording before he wakes. He is then forced to hand over the pictures as well, so he can get paid. He still has deep misgivings about what will be done with the evidence he’s gathered on what he is now convinced is an innocent couple. Robert Duvall plays The Director, who commissioned the job, but he doesn’t respond or react when Harry asks him what’s going to happen to the people. Harry unravels, checking into the hotel to spy on room 773—the room mentioned by the two people he spied on. but what he hears is inconclusive. He sees and hears things that aren’t there. When he goes back to see The Director again, he finds the lady in a Mercedes out front of the building. The Director is dead. She and her husband murdered him and the surveillance by The Director was because he suspected a plot against him. Twisteroo!
Harry ends the film in his apartment, playing his saxophone at maximum volume and trying desperately not to think about what had happened. After a menacing phone call, he tears through his apartment for bugs, ripping up floors, pulling tiles off the wall, dismantling everything. I don’t think there’s much of a chance of him getting his security deposit back. The hunter has become the hunted—but perhaps only in his own mind. This is a pretty movie, showing off the nicest parts of San Fransisco architecture in the 70s.
- Tetro (2009) — 7/10
This is another film by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Vincent Gallo as Angelo, a washed-up playwright living in Buenos Aires. He is visited by his brother, Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich), who is surprised to see how far his brother has fallen. As they walk slowly through the city—Angelo has a broken leg—Bennie calls Angelo “Angie”, to which Angelo replies that he’s now called “Tetro”. He seems to be channeling a young Michael Douglas in both appearance and voice.
Bennie stays with his brother for a few days, and is introduced to his circle of acquaintances and his live-in girlfriend, Miranda. At this point, we see a flashback of a car crash in which a young Tetro was involved. It’s unclear whether his passenger died. The plot dawdles forward through the performance of “Fausta” a play for which Tetro runs the lights. It comes out that Tetro and Bennie’s father was a famous, rich playwright, Carlo Tetrocini. Miranda storms out because Tetro had lied to her for a long time about his past.
Bennie and Miranda become closer friends. He takes Tetro and Miranda’s puppy for a walk and gets hit by a Vespa, injuring himself quite badly. The puppy is fine. Tetro flashes back to his car accident again, wherein it’s now clearer that his wife or girlfriend was killed. The flashbacks are in a tighter frame, narrower, with a large black border on the screen. The two sons remember their father as an overbearing arrogant man who wouldn’t let their sons have anything for themselves, seeking praise, flirting with their girlfriends.
Bennie misses his boat, ending up in the hospital for a while. Tetro and Miranda reconcile, rallying to support Bennie. Tetro discovers that Bennie has been digging into his old stories and memoirs. He throws a fit, but Bennie presses on, finishes the play Tetro was unable to finish and gets it published and produced. Tetro sulks. Like, a lot. The play of their lives starts to merge with flashbacks and revelations, though it’s difficult to know what’s true. It is revealed that Carlo stole Angelo’s great love from him, leading to the ruin of the family and breaking Tetro for good. Bennie reveals all of this drunkenly at a family reunion. Or thinks he does—is he just dreaming? How much of this film is a dream? He hulks out and tries to set the ancestral home on fire. Then it’s time to get back out into traffic; what is it with this family and traffic?
Filmed in black and white. Saw it in English and Spanish with subtitles.
- Habemus Papum (We Have a Pope) (2011) — 7/10
This movie starts with the election of a pope, Pope Melville. He has a nervous breakdown before he can greet the public from the holy balcony. He runs away screaming, following by a shuffling mass of confused cardinals. After exhibiting what they felt was sufficient patience, a few cardinals from Oceania wanted to take in the sights and a Caravaggio exhibit. But the head cardinal pulled on their leash and made them stay sequestered for another day.
The cardinals call in a shrink. The counseling session takes place within a giant circle of cardinals. He isn’t allowed to know his name, not allowed to ask about family, mother, childhood, pretty much anything relevant. It turns out that the psychiatrist is not a Catholic, doesn’t even believe in God. No-one bothered to ask. He soldiers on. He discovers later that he is now trapped within the Vatican because they cannot let him go until he cures the Pope. They confiscate his phone, cutting him off from the outside world.
He’s not the only one, though. Because of the unorthodox proceedings, with the Pope remaining unannounced, the cardinals, too, are in limbo. They smoke, play solitaire, make jigsaw puzzles, take the various medications required by men of such advanced age.
The next morning, the Pope takes a walk and sees the Swiss guard doing some form of…maneuver. They’re speaking perfect High German, which is total bullshit. Swiss people can’t speak High German without an accent, often a catastrophically strong one. Even Angels & Demons got this right, FFS.
The Pope takes a limousine out of the Vatican, to talk to another counselor, his other psychiatrist’s wife. (I think.) After speaking to her, he tells his camerlengo that he needs to take a walk. He disappears when a passing truck blocks his security detail. He wanders the city, confused and hopeless and depressed. He calls his camerlengo, but doesn’t reveal his whereabouts, saying he needs more time to think. The Pope is AWOL.
The camerlengo rallies and gets a Swiss Guardsman to fill in for the Pope, pretending to all the Cardinals that the pope is back and that he’s doing just fine, just needs a little time. Meanwhile, the Pope ends up in a hotel. The next morning, he is accosted by a seeming madman, speaking lines that have no relation to reality. The Pope quickly recognizes that he is rolling through the lines of a Chekhov play. (The Three Sisters, if I’m not mistaken…liberal arts education FTW!)
The Swiss guardsman posing as the Pope is, meanwhile, is having quite a nice time of it, playing music and snacking on delectable desserts. The psychiatrist moves on from playing cards with a few cardinals to examining the odds—made by li Bookmakers—and discussing the chances the front-runners had with the whole group. They’re definitely out of their comfort zone here, but he is definitely not. Next, they set up a volleyball court in the Vatican, to pass the time. They’ve already set up the brackets prior. They all agree to play because they think the Pope is in his apartments, gleaning energy from their enthusiasm. It’s just the Swiss guardsman, though.
The camerlengo announces that the Pope is gone for good. The cardinaly rally for a last gambit and go to the theater where he is watching a production of The Three Sisters. The cardinals, in their innocence and utter lack of worldliness, remind me strongly of how I pictured the wizards of Discworld. When the play falters because of the dozens of cardinals swarming the theater, the Pope’s comrade-in-arms and fellow Chekhov-lover (an asylum inmate, it seems), leaps to the stage to perform all the roles at once, to prevent the production from sinking. His soliloquy ends in raucous applause. Slowly people realize the Pope is in attendance and they applaud him instead. Wonderfully madcap.
He finally makes his way to the vaunted balcony…and declines the position. The Catholic church has no Pope. The cardinals are devastated. The world makes no sense anymore. The end.
Saw it in Italian with English subtitles.