'Rich Hill' and 'Me and You' offer very different (but equally compelling) coming-of-age tales
Bernardo Bertolucci's Me and You is this once-towering director's first feature in over a decade spent sidelined by crippling back pain. But it's also his best since at least 1990's The Sheltering Sky, despite some limitations to the material adapted from Niccolò Ammaniti's novel. Though he no longer works with Vittorio Storaro, the extraordinary (if allegedly over-perfectionist) cinematographer of his acknowledged classics (1970's The Conformist, 1972's Last Tango in Paris, 1976's 1900, 1987's The Last Emperor), there's a hypnotic, poetical mastery of the visual medium here that Bertolucci's sketchier post-prime projects seldom approach.
In some respects, it's a flashback to 1979's cultishly adored, popularly reviled Luna, again mixing up awkward male adolescence, heroin addiction, and diva behavior. Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) is a more-than-usually withdrawn teen, perhaps due to major acne and his parents' separation. When the mom he's exhausting with his attitude (Sonia Bergamasco) sends him off to ski camp, he quails at joining so many prettier peers. Instead, he sneaks back for a week of blissful solitude in their apartment building's conveniently well-supplied basement.
This curmudgeon's idyll, however, is interrupted by another fugitive. Lorenzo's older half-sister Olivia (Tea Falco) is a decadent wild child temporarily out of allies, and horse. She needs a place to crash and withdraw. Yelps that he'd prefer being alone don't get pimply Lorenzo very far, as Olivia is "not exactly dying to be in this craphole." She's here because it's her only option.
Bertolucci embarrassed himself with a couple of later movies (1996's Stealing Beauty, 2003's The Dreamers) in which he seemed a stereotypical old artiste ogling young flesh. Me and You doesn't go where you might expect, but neither do its characters develop in otherwise sufficiently surprising or revealing ways. Once they're trapped in the basement, the movie remains fascinating, but the fascination is all directorial rather than narrative. It's a master class in execution with a definite minor in content. But sometimes sheer craft is a thing you can sink into like a shag carpet. Me and You is the kind of film you just want to roll around in, luxuriating in its plush pile. *
RICH HILL and ME AND YOU open Fri/22 at the Roxie.