Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two lovers (Amantes)

If you want an easily forgettable experience, keep away from Two lovers. But if you want to enjoy rich, fulfilling moments you should seriously consider about trying Two lovers at once.
In other words, if you are longing to see an “unpretentious romantic comedy” or a funny popcorn movie just to pass your time, you had better avoid Two lovers. But if you like movies with a couple of unpredictable characters and, after the movie session, you would enjoy going to a pub with your lover(s) and discuss such relevant questions as “Why are we humans so self-destructive?” or “Why do when we have two clear options in our lives, one of which is safe and the other is risky, and the former would lead you to stability and happiness while the latter to uneasiness and despair, why do we always tend to take the wrong decision?” then Two lovers could be a nice alternative.
Director James Gray tells us the story of Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix), who recently broke up with his fiancée due to genetic incompatibility. They have made some tests before marrying and the tests appointed that if they were going to have children, their children would be born with Tay-Sachs disease. This is a severe genetic condition most common in Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jews whose symptoms include feeding difficulties, loss of motor skills, blindness, deafness and loss of intellectual skills; death usually comes before children are 5 years old). This unfortunate situation has made Leonard come back to live with his parents, a natural thing to do since he works at his father business, a laundry. His job is actually very subaltern, a job that doesn’t offer him a way to develop his intellect and abilities. So what would you try do to in a cloudy day if you were a guy with a pitiful job and a broken heart passing over a bridge?
But not everything is dark in Leonard’s live. After all, he has a loving mother and a flexible father. And, in order to definitely forget his fiancée, he is going to meet two very different girls. The first one is Sandra Cohen (Vinessa Shaw), a beautiful brunette with who is daughter of the future commercial partners of the family. There is going to be a merger between the two laundries companies, and is always good and advisable to join the useful to the pleasant. Sandra is almost too perfect to be true, and the most incredible thing: she is very interest in Leonard.

The other girl lives at his building. Her name is Michelle. As Sandra, she is a very acttractive girl, but the similarities end here. Michelle is one of those mysterious blondie girls who seem to have a painful secret. Emotionally disturbed and with a puzzling attitude, she immediately sparks Leonard's interest and they become friends. But how on earth could a man want just friendship with a woman like Michelle?

The way in which James Gray conducts the plot is smart and slow, without any hurries. And he doesn’t seem to be ashamed of inserting a lot of references to other movies, such as Le Notti Bianchi, de Luchino Visconti (which, as Two lovers, is also based on Dostoyesvsky's novel White nights), The Rear Window, by Alfred Hitchcock and Body Double by Brian De Palma, and even TV series such as Twin Peaks, by David Lynch.
From Visconti's movie, Gray steals some scenes and the idea of updating the spirit of Dostoyevsky characters. The link with The Rear Window happens because Leonard can see Michelle’s apartment through his rear, indiscreet window. And the voyeur theme explored by De Palma in Body Double is revisited when Leonard takes photographs of Michelle through the open window. Connection with Twin Peaks comes because of Michelle’s distressed character, who remembers us of the helpless Laura Palmer. Other link with David Lynch’s movies could be the presence of Lynch's ex-wife and muse, Isabella Rossellini, as Leonard’s mother.
The cast is pretty well-chosen and includes Elias Koteas as someone important in Michelle's live. Leading actor Joaquin Phoenix is fairly convincing as Leonard and finally proves that he can be so gifted as his late brother River. The soundtrack probably is good because it doesn’t call our attention at all. On the whole, Two lovers is worth seeing, because not only is a well written, acted and directed movie, but also it allows some thought and discussion about key issues to our lives.

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