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GFF 2012: This Must Be the Place (Paolo Sorrentino, 2011)

February 23, 2012

“Something’s wrong here. I don’t know exactly what it is, but something’s wrong here.” Repeated by its protagonist throughout This Must Be the Place, the line captures the baffling quality of Paolo Sorrentino’s English language debut. An erratic merging of different forms and tones, it is a difficult film to describe and one even harder to discuss in regards to why much of it succeeds. It is certainly schizophrenic conceptually and stylistically, but it also never feels disjointed or packed with too many strands.

Sean Penn plays a wealthy former rock star of around 50 years of age, Cheyenne, bored and jaded while in long-implemented retirement in Dublin. Perpetually slathered in the make-up and attire of his goth rock career, as well as frequently wielding cat eye glasses and a shopping trolley, Cheyenne visually resembles a curious blend of Penn’s own inescapable looks, The Cure’s Robert Smith and a grandmother; his camp vocal intonations alternately bring to mind Truman Capote, canine cartoon star Droopy and a John Waters character. Residing in a palatial estate with his fire-fighter wife and emotional anchor Jane (Frances McDormand), the disconnected Cheyenne spends much of his time investing in stock shares and attempting matchmaking with a young Irish girl he has a tenuous connection to (Bono’s daughter, Eve Hewson). Upon hearing that his estranged father is dying, he makes the journey to New York in an attempt at reconciliation, only to find he has missed his chance. Never really knowing his father, Cheyenne discovers the extent of the man’s experience in Auschwitz at the hands of a particular SS officer, and with some guidance from a Nazi hunter (Judd Hirsch), sets off on a journey across the United States in order to track down the former officer, who had since moved to the country and may still be alive…

Full review at Sound on Sight

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