Bernardo Bertolucci directed this Italian drama co-scripted by Bertolucci and Clare Peploe from a story by British-born writer James Lasdun (co-scripter of Jonathan Nossiter's Sunday). In Rome, reclusive British composer Jason Kinsky (David Thewlis) lives in the building he inherited from his aunt, while his cleaning woman Shandurai (Thandie Newton) resides in the basement, studying medicine. One day, Kinsky tells Shandurai that he loves her and will do anything for her, so she asks him to free her husband, a political prisoner back in Africa. To acquire funds for the man's release, Kinsky begins selling his possessions, including his piano, while Shandurai hangs out with her friend Agostino (Claudio Santamaria), a man angling to get her into bed. Location filming took place in Italy and Kenya. Shown at the 1998 Toronto Film Festival and the 1998 San Sebastian Film Festival. ~ Bhob Stewart, Rovi
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I was not disapointed by the artsy manner of the film. I enjoyed the way it was filmed and the music was stunning. The story was complicated in it's simplicity. I do feel as if the movie coped out on the love scene between the 2 leads. The 2 never even kissed. I felt let down that the tension between them was never resolved for the viewer although it was apparently resolved for them. It was not a bad movie...it just was not powerful as it could have been had the director been more bold at the end of the film.
The visuals are stunning and as much a character as those portrayed by actors, though clichéd and borrowed from other films. For example, the use of the African musician through out as a link to Newton's character's sense of her ethnic identity is reminiscent of Fiddler on the Roof's use of the fiddler to represent Jewish identity. The musician appears when she feels her link to her world weakening. Worth the effort to watch, it is not an easy view. Thewlis does not come across as sympathetic but rather as a stalker. Just as Newton's opinion of him changes, so does the viewers. We see him back away when he learns she is married, yet selflessly sacrifice everything for her happiness. We see him grow as a person. As Thewlis grows on the viewer, Newton's character becomes somewhat estranged. Newton is delightful and powerful. Erratic at best, it is generally a crap-shoot with Thewlis. His performances are either excellent or horrid. This is one of those rare moments of excellence.