I don’t know how I can manage to read widely enough in the indie movie scene to know ones I want to see, and still manage to go into them unaware of their tonal shifts and reveals. It’s a treat for me, I love surprises, but it does make me feel a little like I’m robbing you all of something when I then turn around and talk vague circles around it.
I can’t help it though, because when done right these turns are rocking and stabilizing at once, what *makes* the picture. Is this turn done right? Maybe. It sure as hell packs a lot more thoughts in. I think if the runtime had run out on what I thought for sure was the final image, this would have been a lighter but stronger movie, with the TABLEAU-and-cut-the-lights feel of a bold stage play finish. Concluding that way would still throw some commentary back on what came before, but everyone would just call this version an artsy hedonistic romp with a dark ending. Instead, A Bigger Splash keeps spooling out for quite a bit longer, and while it probably ends up less sound as a film, it does wrap up having delivered a whole lot more interesting ideas about privilege and relationships. So what IS good art? Art that makes you think? Art that’s well made? Art that entertains? What if someone said you could only pick two at a time?
Some movies do all three at once of course. A Bigger Splash I’m not sure always does, but just blows right out of the turquoise water all the movies out there only doing one. And as for the entertainment value, you are all hopefully aware that this movie features Tilda Swinton as a vacationing rockstar with a closet of custom Dior, and a pinned scene that’s just several minutes of Ralph Fiennes enthusiastically dancing around a sun-struck villa to ‘Emotional Rescue’.
Anyway let’s talk about Luca Guadagnino. I love Luca Guadagnino, because he makes cinematic mood poems that happen to also have plots. I’ve just completed his self-described “Desire trilogy” with this one, and while they carry over no characters and are thematically linked only by pools and perhaps the most common subject in film, they are still a trilogy, because Luca made them. I Am Love, A Bigger Splash, and Call Me By Your Name have different feels and different looks, but they all have Feel and Look, piles of it, swaths, songs. You can feel the clothes, which are, to the last character, perfect. You can feel the architectural spaces of it. You almost feel you could catch a tan from the tangibility of the bright Italian sunlight pouring over skin.
So A Bigger Splash is that Luca thing, but like, the more manic, rich-trashy version of it. The sun might be a little too hot white. The perfect costumes are frequently coming off. It still has that languid, hang-out pace (and length), but what’s contained in those summer beats is spikier. It’s casually erotic, it’s vacation, it’s dramaz, it’s funny until-it’s-not, and then it is again but different, more horror to it. I think ultimately I’m writing it down as “mixed” but I want a lot more like it.