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  Publicity Stills of
(Courtesy of Cathay-Keris Films)

Genre: Drama
Director: Isabel Coixet
Cast: Penelope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, Dennis Hopper, Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard
RunTime: 1 hr 48 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: M18 (Some Scenes of Intimacy & Nudity)
Official Website: http://samuelgoldwynfilms.com/

Opening Day: 1 January 2009 Exclusively at The Picturehouse


Charismatic professor DAVID KEPESH glories in the pursuit of adventurous female students but never lets any woman get too close. When gorgeous CONSUELA CASTILLO enters his classroom, however, his protective veneer dissolves. Her raven-haired beauty both captivates and unsettles him. Even if Kepesh declares her body a perfect work of art, Consuela is more than an object of desire. She has a strong sense of herself and an emotional intensity that challenges his preconceptions. Kepesh's need for Consuela becomes an obsession, but ultimately his jealous fantasies of betrayal drive her away. Shattered, Kepesh faces up to the ravages of time, immersing himself in work and confronting the loss of old friends. Then, two years later, Consuela comes back into his life with an urgent, desperate request that will change everything.

Movie Review:

Love stories are a dime a dozen these days, but not many of them dwell into a spring-winter romance between a middle-aged man and a young woman. Loneliness can affect everyone regardless of age. Thus, a film about a love story told from a middle-aged man's point of view is worth paying attention not only for its novelty but as an engaging character study.

"Elegy" is a film adaptation of Philip Roth's novel "The Dying Animal" that gives insight into the life of David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley), a cultural professor who once had a failed marriage. To cope with his loneliness, he maintains a casual relationship with Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson) who is about the same age as him while having occasional flings with some of his female students. All seems well until young Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz) enters his life, first as his student in one of his lectures, then later developing into his love interest. Their relationship becomes closer as time goes by but it eventually falls apart as a result of the age difference issue and David's possessiveness. Since the breakup, David manages to come to terms with his once-again single life, only for Consuela to return with saddening news.

In essence, "Elegy" is a believable character study of a man coping with loneliness. Although David is successful in his teaching career, to the extent that he gets to appear on TV and radio to share his cultural views, he does not see his life as a fulfilling one due to the empty void in his heart which even Carolyn cannot help to fill. Yet, when Consuela is by his side, his sense of insecurity wants her to be entirely his at all times. Despite his shortcomings, we still tend to feel for David, thanks to the remarkable performance of Ben Kingsley who returns to his top dramatic form here after some career ups and downs in recent times. The one-time Best Actor Oscar winner for his role in "Gandhi" is spot-on with his portrayal of David, earning our sympathy without being over the top. Aside from Kingsley, the performance of the rest of the cast is top-notch as well. Penelope Cruz provides the right approach as the smart and attractive Consuela, further proving that there is some talent from the L'Oreal spokesperson. As a way to show her commitment to artistic filmmaking, she even appears topless in a few scenes that are essential to the storyline. Other supporting roles are duly taken by character actors Dennis Hopper as David's best friend George and Peter Sarsgaard as David's only son from his previous marriage. Most noteworthy is Dennis Hopper, who manages to steal a scene or two by providing some needed comic relief to this otherwise sombre film. It is a refreshing experience to see him as a likable guy instead of the usual menacing villains he has played for the most part of his career.

The film's only downfall is also its greatest strength, that being the subject matter of a tragic spring-winter romance which may not be to everyone's liking, especially with romantic comedies and teen movies being more popular these days. Still, the story presented here is a heartfelt one that explores the feelings of a man whose youth has been gone and all he wants is a partner for him to live out the remaining years of his life with.

As a whole, "Elegy" is a rather simple and straightforward film that has no interest in providing extremely shocking twists or pushing any filmmaking boundaries. We do get a witty sequence where we see right into the mind of David when he has some qualms of distrust towards Consuela, but that is all there is to it as far as story-telling creativity is concerned. Director Isabel Coixet has opted for the character-drives-plot approach by emphasizing the actors' performances to give life into the film, and it works.

Movie Rating:

(A character-driven story of a flawed man in search of companionship, supplemented with power-packed performances from Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz)

Review by Tan Heng Hau


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. Volver (2006)

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