MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Review: A Bigger Splash

There’s a glow that enshrines the Mediterranean isle of Pantelleria. The idyllic fashion in which it’s presented in A Bigger Splash, the skeptical would conclude it was a fictional locale. It’s not. Pantelleria is a getaway for wealthy Europeans.

So it’s the perfect perch for rock superstar Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) and filmmaker boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). Their serenity and seclusion will soon be undone by the arrival of bombastic record producer Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes) and young daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). Harry has a professional and personal past with Marianne that’s will make life complicated for this quartet of castaways.

A Bigger Splash (no relation to the David Hockney painting or documentary) is a rethinking of the 1969 French film La Piscine, which starred Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Maurice Ronet and a young Jane Birkin. It was set in the more accessible environs of St. Tropez. Where the earlier film was structured as a traditional thriller with an unsettling moral twist, filmmaker Luca Guadagnino thumbs his nose at genre conventions. He is a supreme stylist as evidenced by his international breakout with I Am Love. His command of cinematic language and picture-perfect compositions mesmerizes. Guadagnino like his Italian brethren Visconti and Antonioni is a master of setting a tone and creating a mood that envelops a story like an exquisitely tailored dress.

Harry is both clown and demon, recalling the more literally devilish Jack Nicholson of The Witches of Eastwick. His intent is to disrupt Marianne and Paul’s paradise, although the script comes up short at a convincing rationale for his actions. One can postulate that he is evil incarnate and therefore needs no other purpose but that’s largely undone by events that transpire late one night in the swimming pool.

Swinton, certainly one of contemporary cinema’s most fearless actors, transforms into a rock goddess on stage and off and raises the bar as her character only speaks in a whisper owing to strained vocal chords. Johnson seamlessly elevates the most obvious character with a disquieting mystery. But it’s Fiennes’ braggadocio that provides cohesion with an unfettered performance that careens from stark irritation to surprising charm. It’s ideally suited for the nature of the piece but few of his peers would have the courage to perch at the end of the limb and ignore the fates.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon