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It's All About Love (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast interviews; Director's commentary; Trailer.

DANISH director, Thomas Vinterberg, is credited with being one of the co-founders of the Dogme 95 school of film-making, which placed minimalism above everything else, in terms of making movies.

Hence, his most famous work, Festen (The Celebration), was shot on hand-held cameras, entirely on location, using action that took place in ‘the here and now’, while Dogme 95 was mischievously described as being ‘a rescue operation to counter certain tendencies in film today’.

It will come as some surprise to fans of the director, however, to find that his latest work, the captivating but surreal, It’s All About Love, marks a major change of style, boasting a top-drawer cast and a sweeping, epic feel that seems to fly in the face of the Dogme philosophy.

Not that this is a bad thing, of course, for the film still bears many of the hallmarks of a European art-house production, as well as an interesting, if bizarre, ‘what if’ scenario to some of the problems which beset modern life.

Set in the near-future, the film picks up as John (Joaquin Phoenix) arrives in New York to complete his divorce with his figure-skater wife, Elena (Claire Danes).

But it quickly becomes apparent that nothing is as it seems, as people keep dropping dead all over the city (due to an apparent lack of love), and Elena seems determined to keep him at the hotel she is staying, in search of a second chance.

As John finds himself becoming hopelessly drawn to his wife once more, however, he uncovers a corporate conspiracy surrounding her family, which places Elena’s life in danger, and subsequently kidnaps her in a bid to flee the city.

 

But their flight is made difficult by the environmental changes affecting the world, which place gravity under threat, in Africa, and which could herald the start of a new Ice Age sooner than anyone thinks.

Hovering over all this, quite literally, is John’s brother, Marciello (played by Sean Penn), a man with a fear of flying, whose subsequent treatment means he can only ‘live’ in aeroplanes, and who provides a sort of advice-cum-commentary to his sibling’s plight.

When it played as part of last year’s London Film Festival, It’s All About Love divided audiences into those who considered it pretentious rubbish, and those who were utterly beguiled by what it had to offer.

Certainly, Vinterberg has created a haunting and intimate movie, which operates as much as an intriguing think-piece, as well as a slight commentary on the emotional state of the world today.

His cinematography is both utterly addictive and beautifully realised, while the thriller aspects of the plot, concerning the conspiracy surrounding Elena, should have audiences sufficiently glued, even if the downbeat finale may leave them feeling cold.

New York, which has seldom looked better, appears to operate as some sort of surreal wonderland, in which it snows at the height of Summer, and dead bodies litter the pavements, parks and airports, while the film is vaguely reminiscent of the classic thrillers of the 1950s, as it builds towards its revelatory finale.

The quirkiness which permeates, throughout, is summed up by Penn’s bizarre scenes as John’s brother, whose presence doesn’t always seem necessary, but who provides a compelling presence throughout.

Both Phoenix and Danes are also typically strong, serving to make It’s All About Love a bold and imaginative experience, which is sure to remain with viewers for a long time after it has finished, no matter what they ultimately take away from it.


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