Luca Guadagnino excels at the unrepentantly grandiose and ludicrous. The Italian director's latest, A Bigger Splash, abounds in sybaritic delights, though here the hedonism awkwardly cedes to a misguided attempt at topical relevance. A loose remake of Jacques Deray's La Piscine (1969), A Bigger Splash follows the original's febrile love quadrangle, yet ditches the Côte d'Azur setting for Pantelleria, a volcanic island off the coast of Sicily. The Mediterranean haven is where Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) -- a rock divinity who favored Aladdin Sane maquillage -- has decamped after vocal-cord surgery, adoringly cared for by her documentary-filmmaker boyfriend, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). The couple's blissful summertime isolation, replete with carnal aqua-cising in their swimming pool and mud-bath languor, is interrupted by the arrival of garrulous, showboating Harry (Ralph Fiennes), Marianne's former lover and producer, and his taciturn, smoldering 22-year-old daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson).
Dyads dissolve and reassemble; unholy alliances are strongly suggested; unholier acts are committed; all members of the comely intergenerational cast frequently bare all. A Bigger Splash -- a title borrowed from David Hockney's 1967 Pop-art painting dominated by a sleek California residential pool, similar to the one owned by Marianne and Paul -- is decadent in both senses of the word, charting not only decline (of relationships, of the Continent) but also the appetites and delectations of the central foursome. All the wanton behavior sparks such giddy pleasure that the tonal shift after one of the quartet exits the action feels especially deflating. Guadagnino inserts a plot thread indicting Europe's response to the migrant crisis, shoehorning an issue of utmost gravity into a pulpy sex thriller.
Never one to betray the courage of his convictions, Luca Guadagnino excels at the unrepentantly grandiose and ludicrous. The title alone of his previous narrative feature, I Am Love (2009), signaled operatic sweep and loony sincerity, qualities further exalted by the film’s visual ravishments and seductive voluptuousness. The Italian director’s...
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