Last Words


Everything Old Testament will become New again.

(2020) Science Fiction (Gravitas) Nick Nolte, Kalipha Touray, Charlotte Rampling, Alba Rohrwacher, Stellan Skarsgård, Silvia Calderoni, Maryam d’Abo, Osemwenoghogho “Victory” Wilfred, Vincenzo Del Prete, Giovani Trono, Jun Ichikawa, Fiorenzo Madonna, Cosimo Desil, Adreina Liotti, Roberta Mattei, Ivan Alfredo Manzano, Nicolas Sacrez, Giulio Esposito, Fabiana Guarino, Valeria Golino. Directed by Jonathan Nossiter

 

Contemplating the end of mankind is never a pleasant thing. This dystopian post-apocalyptic sci-fi film from noted documentary filmmaker Nossiter does just that. It’s not so much Waiting for Godot as it is Waiting for The End.

It is 2086 and Kal (Touray) is the last man standing – or sitting, or lying down – on Earth. He wants to leave a record of humanity’s last days. An unnamed catastrophe has devastated the planet, leaving the water toxic and plant life pretty much obliterated. Those that remain sustain life on bottled water and canned goods. Kal and his sister who is pregnant live in what’s left of Paris until an encounter with a gang of feral kids leads to a most horrific offscreen death of his sister. Kal then heads to Italy, where he finds Shakespeare (Nolte) holed up in a cave with the last remaining celluloid, keeping himself entertained by watching movies.

Shakespeare comes up with the idea of constructing a movie camera and manufacturing film (into which Kal hand-punches the sprocket holes) and heading off to Greece, where it is rumored a last remaining settlement of humans remains, in a patch of Earth still capable of sustaining life. After an arduous journey, sure enough they find one, headed up by the resolute Dr. Zyberski (Skarsgård) and the hyper-sexual Batik (Rampling). There the two reacquaint the survivors with the wonders of motion pictures while counting down the days until The End.

The first half of the picture is dominated by Nolte and he responds by giving a performance that actually carries the movie. Nossiter plainly has a love for all things cinematic and Nolte is able to capture the essence of that love without being too maudlin about it. The cast has a few interesting performers like Rampling, Skarsgård and d’Abo, but mostly what we have here are extras who are going through the motions, which makes some sense – when confronted with the end of everything, a certain amount of numbness is likely to occur.

Try not to think too much about inner logic here; Shakespeare claims to remember the Sixties first-hand but hey, it’s 2085 and that would make him – even if he were a kid in the Summer of Love – well over 120 years old, and considering that he’d spent the last twenty years or so living off of what canned food and bottled water he can scrounge up, a lifestyle and diet not conducive to long life.

The plot feels a bit all over the place and nonsensical at times, which perhaps is the point. Still, this is a hell of a downer of the movie, unrelentingly bleak and depressing. This is not a movie to show to anyone who is clinically depressed, or even to fans of intelligent sci-fi. The message here is that things are going to end with a whimper or even more likely, a simple shrug of the shoulders. It doesn’t say much about humanity, or Nossiter’s opinion of it.

REASONS TO SEE: Nolte gives a truly strong performance.
REASONS TO AVOID: Disjointed and joyless.
FAMILY VALUES: There is sexuality, nudity and violence, including a sexual assault.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Skarsgård and Rampling both appear in the recent remake of Dune.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, DirecTV, Google Play, Microsoft, Redbox, Spectrum, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/8/22: Rotten Tomatoes: 40% positive reviews; Metacritic: 50/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Quintet
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers

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Maserati: A Hundred Years Against All Odds


An automotive definition of beauty and style.

(2020) Documentary (VisionNick Mason, Sterling Moss, John Surtees, Alfieri Maserati, Adolfo Orsi Jr., Giorgietto Gugiaro, Carlo Maserati, Harald J. Wester, David M. Williamson (narrator), Paolo Pininfarina, Nino Vaccorella, Alexander Fyshe, Bruco Male, Doug Magnon, Matteo Panini, Andrea Bertolini. Directed by Philip Selkirk

If you want to talk about successful branding, you have to talk about Maserati. The car company has come to symbolize sports car performance and luxurious elegance at once. Nothing quite says “you made it” like owning a Maserati…except owning a fleet of them.

This documentary feels less of a labor of love than corporate training film, something you would show to salesmen on the showroom floor on their first day of employment. It looks at the history of the company, starting out with their 1914 founding by four Italian brothers, only three of whom survived to lead the company into becoming one of auto racing’s most prestigious names. It wasn’t until industrialist Adolfo Orsi bought the company that they started manufacturing cars for consumer use.

Their early race cars were primitive affairs but gradually, the innovative Maserati brothers developed engines that would hurtle their vehicles at unheard-of speeds. An interesting fun fact; the chassis of their cars have never been designed in-house; Maserati has always relied on outsourcing design to independent car designers. It is a strategy that has served them well.

As the title implies, the company didn’t have an easy path to success. Financial woes and changing tastes put the company on the brink of bankruptcy a good half a dozen times, but they always seemed to rebound at the last moment and find an investor to lift them out of their doldrums, or a new design that takes the world by storm.

This is absolutely going to appeal to car enthusiasts, and for them this ought to be required viewing. The film is heavy on technical specs for the various engines and cars, and those who understand the minutiae of performance car engines will likely be sucked in. The movie is a little light on the human side of things; at one point, Maserati dropped out of auto racing because of a tragedy involving a Ferrari vehicle careening into a crowd and killing ten spectators, including four children. The incident, which deeply affected the company, is literally glossed over, mentioned in passing and the ramifications left unexplored.

It is also worth noting that of all the talking heads interviewed, not one is female which I suppose is meant to appeal to a certain audience but certainly ignores the fact that there are female auto racers, female car enthusiasts, female designers and female automotive executives. That’s a little troubling. Some of the interviewees are delightful; Formula One racing legend John Surtees and Sterling Moss, one of the greatest of all time, are entertaining storytellers; Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, one of the most intense Maserati lovers in Christendom, also talks lovingly about the cars and what they mean. Surprising to me, former company CEO Harald Wester is articulate and informative about the corporate aspect of the company.

This isn’t for everyone, but for those that the film is meant for it is a very rewarding experience. From the nearly century-old racing footage to the footage of the introduction of the Maserati Alfieri, one of their more recent models, there is plenty for those who delight to the sound of an engine revving to sink their teeth into.

REASONS TO SEE: Will certainly appeal to car enthusiasts.
REASONS TO AVOID: Very much a niche film.
FAMILY VALUES: Suitable for all audiences.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The filmmakers secured the cooperation of the Maserati corporation and was given extensive use of their archives.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Google Play, Microsoft
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/12/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Racing Scene
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
The Girl in the Spider’s Web