Tag Archives: Barbara Sukowa

Hello, Dali


by George Wolf

Sir Ben Kingsley as Salvador Dali? That is perfect casting, and an offer that would be hard to resist even if the rest of Daliland was an uninspired bore.

It’s not, although it could use a bit more of the legendary surrealist’s zest for the unconventional.

Director Mary Harron and writer John Walsh (married since 1998) anchor the film in 1974, when Dali’s outlandish antics, eclectic entourage and wild parties (“I need four dwarves and a suit of armor”) have caused the art critics to lose interest in him.

But such a lifestyle costs money.

As Dali’s longtime wife and muse Gala (Barbara Sukowa) presses his gallery for cash, the curator’s young assistant James Linton (Christopher Briney from TV’s The Summer I Turned Pretty) is tasked with “spying” on the master. Dali’s big show opens in 3 days, and the gallery wants to make sure they will have plenty of new works to unveil.

Using a young neophyte as an audience’s window into an icon’s world is a fairly standard narrative device, but Harron and Walsh make sure this world is a fascinating one. Kingsley is as delightful as you expect, Sukowa digs deep into the persona of an aging beauty clinging desperately to power and sex appeal, and Briney makes for the perfect wide-eyed fan on a spiral toward disillusion.

Some of Dali’s more famous friends (Alice Cooper, Jeff Fenholdt, Amada Lear) are represented, creating a Warhol-esque community of celebrities and hangers-on that seems disinterested in the demands of tomorrow.

But while Harron does well showcasing the excess and activity, Dali’s actual artwork is MIA, leaving a few well-placed flashbacks to provide anything close to surreal. As we see the younger Dali (Ezra Miller) pursuing the then-married Gala (Avital Love) and receiving inspiration for what will be his signature style, Kinglsey’s Dali watches with us, inviting us into the conversation. These are not only compelling moments, they are the times when the film seems most in step with the legend that drives it.

It may be young James that carries the film’s biggest arc, but it is the orbit around planet Dali that changes him. Harron and Walsh seem too content to merely document that world on the way to a larger comment on disposable fame, crass classism, and the simple fear of death.

As the title would suggest, don’t come to Daliland for a psychological profile of a legend. Come for a peek inside his carefully curated shelter from the real world, and for the e-ticket ride performance from Kingsley.

Secret Love

Two of Us (Deux)

by George Wolf

The plan was to sell each of their neighboring French flats and move to Rome. After decades of living in secret, Nina and Madeleine (“Mado”) would enjoy their twilight years loving each other without hiding.

But after promising to finally come out to her grown son and daughter, Mado (Martine Chevallier) hesitates. Nina (Barbara Sukowa) is furious, and the entire plan is up in the air when fate intervenes.

A sudden stroke leaves Mado unable to speak, which makes Nina an outsider in the world of her longtime love.

The debut feature from director/co-writer Filippo Meneghetti, Two of Us cuts deep with its quiet, well-constructed observations. As Mado’s family and a hired caregiver populate Mado’s apartment, Meneghetti returns often to a tiny peephole in the door, silently amplifying the distance separating the lovers, along with Nina’s yearning to conquer it.

The two leads – no doubt relishing the chance to craft complex, aging females – are simply wonderful. When we meet them, Nina is the proud free spirit, and Mado the reserved, closeted mother and grandmother. The stroke reverses their roles, giving each actor room to redefine their characters, and deepen our connection to them.

Though restrained by silence, you can practically hear Mado screaming for Nina, and Meneghetti’s frequent tight shots give Chevallier to chance to break our hearts without saying a word.

Sukowa’s arc is even better, and she makes Nina’s desperation not only palpable, but the understandable product of a love that is simply part of her very being. It is Nina who now must learn to lie, as her only hope for getting close to Mado becomes making up stories that might placate Mado’s slightly suspicious daughter (Léa Drucker).

One of those schemes runs Nina afoul of the caregiver’s adult son, leading to a well-worn and utterly predictable plot device that brings a surprise dent to Meneghetti’s gentle tone.

But by the time Nina and Mado are framed in the sweetest of final shots, all is forgiven. More than a welcome reminder that love is love at any age, Two of Us is a touching testament to how much stronger togetherness can make us.