The director of this rather dull and pretentious film was Paolo Sorrentino, who won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2013 for The Great Beauty, a movie which left me mostly unimpressed. (Admittedly, it wasn’t a strong year for foreign language nominees.)
This one concerns two old friends, Michael Caine as a great retired composer and conductor, and Harvey Keitel as a film director, who are at a fabulously exclusive spa in Switzerland. Someone is trying to get Caine to perform his famous composition, Simple Songs, for Queen Liz and Prince Phil. He isn’t interested. Harvey is writing and casting what he hopes will be his swan song and masterpiece.
It’s all very arty. Like The Great Beauty, this impressed me as Fellini Lite. No one talks in the dining room. There are surrealistic scenes that left me cold. The best thing about the movie is probably a cameo by Jane Fonda, as the diva who has made eleven films with Harvey but now won’t take a part in this one because movies are old hat, it’s all TV now. She is very good as a 21st century Norma Desmond with a very bad wig. Harvey knows that without her, the picture will never get made … and he takes some drastic action which I shouldn’t reveal here. And, of course, Michael finally caves in and conducts the piece …
Which we didn’t believe for a second that either Liz or Phil would have asked for. If your climax is going to be a great piece of music, the music better be great. This isn’t. It is some modernistic, minimalist piece of crap by someone named David Lang, a respected (by some) composer, whose works I will not be seeking out.