Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Love and Death on Long Island


Love and Death on Long Island; tragicomedy, Canada/ UK, 1997; D: Richard Kwietniowski, S: John Hurt, Jason Priestley, Fiona Leoni, Sheila Hancock, Harvey Atkin
Giles De'Ath is a middle-aged writer living in London: his wife died and he doesn't intend to write anymore. At one instance, he accidentally locks himself out of his apartment, so he decides to go to the cinemas to watch a movie adaptation of some dramatic novel, but accidentally enters at the wrong time, just when the screening of the stupid teenage comedy "Hotpants College 2" starts. Just as he is about to leave, he spots a young actor named Ronnie Bostock on the screen and is fascinated. From there on, he dedicates his whole life to Ronnie: he sees all of his films, collects his photos and even holds a quiz about him. Thus, he decides to go to Long Island to meet him. There he meets Ronnie's girlfriend Audrey who leads him to him. He offers to write a script for him. But when he admits his love, Ronnie leaves him. Giles mysteriously disappears.

"Love and Death on Long Island" is a beautiful example of a simple story and an excellent execution. The respectful London writer, who in his mature age suddenly discovers his (gay) love towards a young actor, is spectacularly sustained played by the veteran John Hurt, but equally surprising is the performance by Jason Priestley, who here gave the role of a lifetime and managed to get rid of his reputation of the star of the TV teenage soap opera "Beverly Hills 90210" by variegating its content. This humorous drama slowly crystallizes its atmospheric touch of cult in the scene where the distinguished writer accidentally spots the young actor in a dumb movie in cinemas and decides to watch it until the end, where in the closing credits his name, "Ronnie Bostock", glows for him - from there on director Richard Kwietniowski describes his comical obsession and infatuation in a very shrill way.

Giles wisely says: "I found beauty where nobody looked", creating an interesting yin-yang relationship with the young Ronnie: while Giles is respectable, he is saddened that Ronnie is treated as a trash celebrity and wants to help him. It is so subtly absurd and stimulating because it is so touchingly surreal: it would be as if Orhan Pamuk would fall in love with Paris Hilton. Giles defends Ronnie where ever he can and even finds deeper layers in his silly films, contemplating how true art can even be deciphered in panned movies if one just rearranges some aspects of it. One of the most subtle jokes comes when he sends Ronnie a letter via fax that is so long that it cowers his whole room with paper. The open ending is brilliant, the movie is a small masterpiece and the authors craft the story about the discovery of hidden beauty in such a way that even her most quiet moments seem more captivating than numerous loud big budget action movies.

Grade:++++

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