Jolie Pitt tapped grief over mother’s death in ‘By The Sea’

6 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘By the Sea’: AFI Review.

In her latest effort behind the camera, Angelina Jolie Pitt also stars with husband Brad Pitt in the story of a married couple unraveling in a French resort town. While some couples may struggle to see their personal and professional lives merge together, Brad believes Angelina will always get the best out of him on set. “She knows when I’m faking it better than anyone else, but, you know, the actor/director relationship is a very collaborative experience,” he told ET’s Kevin Frazier at the opening night of AFI Fest on Thursday (05Nov15). “It’s really no different, and actually a great pleasure, ‘cause you’ve got to trust your director. Brad, 51, did not disappoint in the style department either, dressed dapper in a black suit and matching bow tie with his hair suavely slicked back. “When Angie has a day off, the first thing she does is get up and take the kids out.

However, she thinks their performances in By the Sea were made even more convincing because they are married in real life too. “As a director, you usually don’t want the actor to know everything you’re thinking, but as my husband he can kind of look at me,” she added. “I can say, ‘It’s fine’ and he’ll say ‘No, no, you’re just saying that.’” They are also keen to encourage the six children they raise together to spend time with them on the set too, with 14-year-old son Maddox acting as a production assistant on By the Sea. “We want to make it a family affair and have the kids running in and out of set,” Brad smiled. “There’s a few scenes where we had to make him work the parking lot, you know what I mean? Ostensibly about a couple trying to work their way back from a deeply traumatic incident, the film was made in Malta on a bay that looks like it could be just around the bend from where Robert Altman shot Popeye, which might have served as a warning to the filmmakers and Universal. To the catchy refrain of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourgh’s pop classic “Jane B.,” the stars’ characters Vanessa and Roland motor up windy Maltese roads in a cherry Citroen convertible at an unspecified time in the recent past before cell phones and when everyone smoked without compunction.

Without saying much, but more often than not saying it in French, they check into a lavish villa-style hotel overlooking a bay, whereupon Vanessa takes to her bed like some tragic 19th century heroine and Roland heads for the nearby cafe, where recently widowed patron Michel (Niels Arestrup) serves him constant booze and an occasional bite to eat while the American confronts writer’s block. The couple has chosen this place as the spot to try to recover from whatever cold-cocked them, a blow that has rendered Vanessa an uncommunicative zombie and Roland creatively frozen. Jolie Pitt, on the other hand, always seems far too cosmeticized and accoutred, which doesn’t square with her character’s shuttered, zoned out existence. Things perk up mildly with the arrival of cute French honeymooners Lea (Melanie Laurent) and Francois (Melvil Pouopard), whose constant bedroom activities provide Vanessa with her only distraction from the void. Although this development introduces a heavy element of voyeurism into the proceedings, it isn’t actually very exciting, not does it appear to connect with any fundamental psychological or sexual aspect of Vanessa’s personality; it just perks her up and raises an eyebrow.

The two couples socialize a bit—they go out for dinner and make a sailing outing–but there’s nothing that significantly breaks the usual routine of Vanessa remaining uncommunicative and Roland coming home drunk and usually respectful of her emotional paralysis and physical unapproachability. With such flat-lining and repetitive scenes dominating, two hours is far too long to make an audience wait for a payoff that is hardly about to save the film from its own stasis and dramatic flatness.

There is a pastel pleasure to the visual conjured by cinematographer Christian Berger, best known for his striking black-and-white work on Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, who used natural light enhanced by a series of reflectors. As an old-school, hard-drinking, well-regarded American writer comfortable in Europe, Pitt cuts an outwardly Hemingwayesque figure but without the bluster and braggadocio; with more to work with, the actor could make something of a role like this.

Stripping away all signs of vanity, beginning with the constant heavy makeup, would have been a good start, followed by abandoning the studied posing and posturing, which seem alien to the suffering and grief that have overcome her character.

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