“By The Sea”

What is worse than a narcissistic, unhappy spouse? Not much. Well, maybe being stuck in the 1970’s. See this period piece of 1970 disillusionment, and thank your stars for living through this era or better yet after it. Mile posts are a little more creative today. Gone are the marriage by 24, children by 28 and grandchildren by 52 markers. There are other more creative ways to live and be happy.

Vanessa ( Angelina Jolie) and husband Roland are trying to salvage their marriage with some time spent by the sea in southern France. Though actually shot on Malta, the French language flows. Subtitles are used off and on. An art house air swirls around the cinematography. Enjoy the three times Brad rights the huge lens glasses of his wife. Notice the peephole erotica circa Sarah Miles’ fame, and the row boat viewed from the balcony again and again. Still the prettiness does not offset the word poor dialogue. The languidness and the sea-froth calls seem unfresh. Depression and grief seep through the lounge chairs and bedding, even hover around the tub where the intimacy gets steamy.

When Roland ( Brad Pitt) asks the young honeymooner,Lea ( Melanie Laurant ) what she likes about being married, she responds with “I love belonging to someone, and knowing what my life is going to be.” Her naivety brings smiles.

Maybe this is the film’s point: Life must be lived in the present. This is a mighty goal ,and I really wanted to like this film written, directed and acted by Angelina Jolie Pitt. I just did not. Part of the problem was in the sex scenes. If felt like an in- joke that we were watching Brad and Angelina while they were watching the honeymooners. Angelina’s first words on entering their marbled and mirrored bower was,” I smell fish”. “Fishy” was how I felt about this contrivance.

As the azure blue sea stirs, so does Francois (Melville Poupaud). Lea’s husband is drawn into the psychological games. He is dressed like Roland as he undoes Vanessa’s blouse. Phony punches ensue, and we see a conniving schemer cause pain because she is in pain. Somehow the church going reparation and the saw of “move with the tides, sometimes that’s all we can do” seems a tad lame. Niels Arestrump ‘s Michel,the philosopher king cum bartender, extols Pitt to just love her. Filmgoers will have a more difficult time even liking Vanessa.

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Christine Muller

Carrying a torch for film is what I have done for over forty years, thus the flambleau flamed when I was urged to start a blog. Saving suitcase loads of ticket stubs was no longer relevent so I had to change the game. Film has been important for me in the classroom and a respite for me outside of it. No other art form seems to edge the frayed seams of life as neatly as when a film is done well. I am happy that over one-hundred countries have citizens viewing my thoughts on Word Press, and a few leaving their own with me. Over eight- hundred comments to date, and over two-hundred films reviewed.

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