AKA LA CORRISPONDENZA
AVAILABLE ON REGION 1 DVD, REGION 2 DVD ITALY
RUNNING TIME: 116 MINS
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
PhD student in astrophysics and movie stuntwoman Amy Ryan has been having a relationship with the much older Professor Ed Phoerum for six years. The time they actually get to spend together is limited, but they constantly communicate through texts, e-mails, and video chats. Ed even seems to know what Amy’s going to do before she does it, such as a package containing a new house key arriving in her hotel room the minute she tells him she’s lost her key. But one day Amy realises he is not attending his mobile phone though still receives some emails from him. Attending a conference to be given by Ed, she learns that Ed died a few days ago – but still keep on receiving correspondence from him….
“You’re a galaxy ful of unknown stars, that’s why I’ll never tire of observing, to discover every last one of them”.
Well, when you have lines of dialogue like that in the first few minutes, one can’t help but have negative feelings about the film you’re watching. Being as I consider writer/director Guiseppe Tornatore [Cinema Paradiso, Malena, Deception/The Best Offer] to be one of the finest filmmakers working today, I had to watch and do a review of his latest, but it’s a review that I’m not going to enjoy writing very much. There seemed to be a negative vibe emitting from this one as soon as it was released, and sad to say it proved to be at least partly accurate. Taken on its own, the romantic drama is not at all a terrible picture, and comments about it ripping off P.S. I Love You [which was itself a remake of the Korean The Letters] aren’t really justified because Tornatore apparently had the story outline for Correspondence sitting in a draw [and I’m tempted to say that that’s where it should have stayed] for a great many years, but it lacks much of the usual Tornatore richness, beauty, and romanticism [despite its subject matter] and might even be a weaker film than his awkward [though certainly not uninteresting] debut feature The Professor.
So we have a May-to-December romance going on, and immediately I wondered why our couple couldn’t have been closer in age. I wondered the same thing when I first watched Tornatore’s last, shamefully ignored [times really are hard in today’s climate for filmmakers who don’t work within the increasingly restrictive world of the mainstream Hollywood production], film Deception, but the age difference turned out to be important both narratively and symbolically. However, even as Correspondence dragged to its conclusion, it never really seemed necessary to me that the leading male character should be played by a 69 year old [even if it is Jeremy Irons] when the female one was played by a 38 year old. Just a few tweaks in the screenplay to make them closer in age would have been required to make them closer in age – after all, younger people die all the time from various illnesses. This was only one of several things that prevented me from getting emotionally involved with the drama [I never thought I’ d say that about a Tornatore film] to any great degree. Perhaps the 61-year old Tornatore is just projecting his fantasies onto the screen and I suppose who could blame him, after all this is Olga Kurylenko we’re talking about!
So this couple meet every now and again for trysts – the very first scene has them virtually eating each other alive [we’re certainly not talking the idealistic purity of the kissing scenes in Cinema Paradiso here] – and when they’re not together they’re constantly corresponding thanks to the delights of modern technology. Unfortunately, this means that Amy is one of those infuriating people who never switches her phone off and even texts while at the theatre. Given that [like I hope anybody else who claims to be a true film lover] I absolutely hate it when phones go off in the cinema or idiots supposedly there to see a film still can’t go for more than five minutes without quickly checking Facebook or to see if someone’s sent them a message, this made her character decidedly unlikeable to me and it was a while before I was able to connect a bit with her situation. It also didn’t help that Ed came across as being decidedly creepy the way he seems to anticipate Amy’s actions and even thoughts considering the messages and packages that turn up. I would have thought that most women would be a bit scared or at the very least wonder more about what’s going on than Amy does. I guess Tornatore would say that she’s In Love so rationality isn’t always to be expected, but this film is full of such easy cop-outs, with people not behaving normally just to support the poorly thought through plot.
Amy has a job as a stuntwoman, always performing scenes where her character dies. These scenes are fun though you just know that Amy’s desire to constantly put herself in danger will be explained, and explained it eventually is in probably Kurylenko’s best acted scene in the film. For the most part though, Correspondence is content to lackadaisically go back and forth between York, Edinburgh and a lovely looking Italian island called Borgovenstso in the film as Amy continues to hear from Ed even though he’s supposed to be dead. Over half the film consists of Amy watching Ed on her laptop, or texting. There’s much talk about astrophysics which may mean alot to Tornatore but which to me just seemed like a silly attempt to add some ptetend weight – and this is coming from someone who ‘got’ much of the symbolism in Deception first time around. Eventually Amy tires of what’s going on and, having recieved from Ed instructions on how to shut him off is she so wishes, does so – but then regrets it and has to find out how to switch him back Then it’s more of the same. And the so-called mystery, from which a great deal more could have been made out of, is too obvious too soon which makes much of the final quarter of the film redundant.
Perhaps the worst thing I can say about this film is that I was never really moved, and this is from a filmmaker who’s created scenes which I only have to think about – Matteo talking to his dead wife in Everybody’s Fine, Salvatore and Elena’s reunion in the car is Cinema Paradiso, Irena having the one child that she knew who the father was being taken away as soon as it’s born – and I feel like crying. This filmmaker seems to have a direct line to my soul. Here, one cannot help but be affected a little by the themes of loss, grieving, acceptance and moving, but I didn’t care nearly enough and I have to say P.S. I Love You did it all much better. Correspondence was made by much the same team as Deception and does have some interesting parallels with that film besides the age aspect. One film, for example, has the hero losing himself when he finds his love, while the other tells of the heroine finding oneself while losing her love. There’s a striking use of a statue in one of the final scenes which will remind any viewer of Deception of that movie’s automaton. Unfortunately Correspondence looks and feels rather televisual compared to the other film. There’s still some nice touches here and there, like the mysterious dog who twice comes up to Amy and befriends her, reminding us of how animals can often sense things in humans, though some similar moments elsewhere are weakened by mediocre CGI [and why the hell did they have to use CGI in the first place?- oh sorry I know, it’s because it’s there!]
Irons seems to be holding something back though is perfectly okay. Kurylenko, who had the misfortune to star in the worst James Bond film ever, hasn’t really had much luck in movies but The Water Diviner and To The Wonder did manage to make good use of her, and acting-wise she really shows what she can do in this film, sometimes seeming to tap into emotions which are not in the script. As usual Ennio Morricone wrote the score and it’s probably his least interesting for this director, the film’s sound mix tending not to favour it very much which is unusual because Tornatore tends to like his scores loud and upfront. The themes are pleasant and there’s unusual [for recent Morricone] use of electric guitar and synthesiser in places, though there’s nothing memorable. Correspondence will no doubt seem much better to this critic on a second viewing, but after his first one he has to reluctantly admit that Tornatore, largely through slack writing and handling, has rather botched his latest film, a film which due to its subject should have been a truly emotive, moving yet fulfilling experience. His attempts to place some cosmic significance on the goings-ons in the movie especially seem awkward. Oh well, every great director has a letdown or two, and I’m sure Tornatore will make up for Correspondence with his next one, though sadly it seems like Leningrad, the World War 2 epic that Sergio Leone wanted to make and which Tornatore was going to film for ages, won’t now happen.