Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2023 5:44 pm 
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You can't like movies because other people do

I was just urged to watch this, for the second time, in a very nice Zoom chat, by a friend in England, who sent me an email reminder followup. How could I refuse?

The new film's early sequences of two 11-year-old boys becoming friends in the Italian alps, are charming and idyllic and the scenery is exhilarating, but then I started looking at my watch. All I can say is that if you loved this, now you should definitely watch Celine Song's Past Lives, another time-lapse relationship film that is one of this year's best, and (for the English audience, who get some titles later) just got 5 out of 5 stars from Peter Bradshaw and already long has had 94% on Metacritic (The Eight Mountains' Metascore is 78%, very respectable, but not on the same level, critically).

In fact, The Eight Mountains rated lowish in the Cannes grid of that year - so I had thought. But I had forgotten that it wound up tying for the Jury Prize with EO (another film I didn't like, however, though I forced myself to go out of the way to see it).

The von Groeningen guy I remember (then also collaborating with his life partner Charlotte Vandermeersch) did another film that seemed a bit over the top to me when I watched it in Paris ten years ago. It was called Broken Circle Breakdown. Which describes pretty much how it makes you feel. But it could not be easily dismissed, and neither can this.

I see the same reaching for melodrama, for grand emotions, here also. The play with structure, but less so, probably because it sticks close to its novel source. Luca Marinelli, who plays the adult Pietro, plays Martin Eden in Pietro Marcello's film, which is flawed but I liked better (NYFF 2219). The other actor, Alessandro Borghi, has had some good roles too, notably the lead in the brutal Roman Netflix gangster TV series "Suburra" (which I however bailed from). The Roman dialect in "Suburra" wore me out. As an Italianist, one thing I quite like about The Eight Mountains is its clear, standard Italian (or what seems to me to be so). The cast is very good.

Folksy, English-language songs don't work for me as transitions in European movies; Wendy Ide in her Screen Daily review wrote "There are a few too many musical montages set to accordion-heavy compositions by Daniel Norgren." English-language songs were similarly obtrusive in Van Groeningen's previous film, Broken Circle Breakdown. Here I could hit the mute button, and I really needed to.

The Eight Mountains is certainly dramatic and moving and impressive in its various ways, starting out with the mountain scenery, but it's not as deep as it thinks. To start with postcard scenery doesn't make a movie, and I don't even like mountains. "In the mountains, there you feel free"? No, in the mountains you feel light-headed and trapped. I also don't have fantasies of a best bro, with their homoerotic edge. I keep my homo homo and my straight straight. In that context it seems to me this wouldn't go over in an American film. People wouldn't buy it. But in Italian they do. Because it sounds pretty and you don't quite know what they're feeling.

Richard Brody of The New Yorker, who says some good things about The Eight Mountains but also some utterly damning things, didn't like that uneducated is equated to inarticulate. But I think it an interesting, tricky narrative twist (of the novel no doubt) that Bruno develops a better relationship with Pietro's father in the mountains, where the father is happiest, while Pietro is estranged from his family. For me the only thing worse than having to climb up a glacier and almost falling through with altitude sickness is being shamed into spending four months building a house in the middle of nowhere. In this light see the following popular reviews on Letterboxd:
lorenzo : or the straightification of Brokeback Mountain.

charlie: The sluttiest thing a man can do is to grow himself a beard, wear flannel shirts and build a house on the mountains with his best bro.

David Erlich: Elena Ferrante's MY BEARDED FRIEND.

So you see, this all has its ridiculous side.

The Eight Mountains/Le otto montagne, 147 mins., debuted May 18, 2022 in Competition at Cannes, also showing at Munich, Melbourne, and Busan and 48 other festival venues. My friends saw it recently on the BFI Channel. In the US it can be watched on Vudu, AppleTV and Amazon. Metacritic rating: 78%.

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