Manoel de Oliveira’s I’m Going Home might have made a fitting swan song for the 93-year-old director if he weren’t still so spry; unlike his main character, the filmmaker obviously has more work to do. After a performance in Ionesco’s Exit the King, Gilbert Valence (the great Michel Piccoli) discovers that his entire family (minus his grandson) has been killed in a car crash. He is an aging actor, friendly to his admirers (he is frequently seen signing autographs) and careful when making important choices. Gilbert’s decision-making (to buy or not to buy a pair of shoes, to take or decline a role in an action-packed American film) suggests a willingness to overcome his overwhelming sense of loss, except he doesn’t know how. Though he takes risks, he discovers that comfort lies in that which is familiar. Too young for a role in the aforementioned action film and too old for the part of Buck Mulligan in a screen adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses (directed by John Malkovich’s John Crawford), Gilbert not only becomes a victim of typecasting but a slave to his mortality. Staring at a Jack Vettriano painting depicting dancing lovers, Piccoli profoundly evokes Gilbert’s sense of loss and remorse. On the Exit the King stage, a character says of Gilbert’s King Berenger: “His majesty the king is raving.” Like his Berenger, Gilbert is seemingly convinced that his power is intact. Gilbert busies himself after the death of his family (he buys the shoes, he takes the part in the film) as if to return to normalcy. Tragically, Gilbert’s shoes are stolen and he soon finds himself struggling through his demanding English role in Ulysses. Oliveira’s compositions engage silent film idiom to glorious effect, and the story itself unravels like a great silent work with a haunting open ending. However sad, Oliveira suggests that there is no place like home and certainly no better place to die.
- Milestone Film & Video
- 83 min
- Manoel de Oliveira
- Manoel de Oliveira
- Michel Piccoli, Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich, Antoine Chappey, Leonor Baldaque, Leonor Silveira, Ricardo Trepa, Jean-Michel Arnold, Adrien de Van
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