“It’s very strange, isn’t it? I remember Renoir gave me this fantastic piece of advice. He said that when you direct you should always leave the door open because unexpected things can come in. In other words, don’t structure everything too rigidly because then there won’t be room to experiment.”--- wistfully reminisced Bernardo Bertolucci in a recent interview and those who have fallen under the spell of this prodigy would never have an iota of hesitation to concede how faithfully he has stuck to his illustrious predecessor’s advice. His latest endeavour, ‘Me and You’, an Italian language film, does not break away from this mould. But I’m afraid the diehard fans of Bertolucci, whose cinematic creed and craft so profoundly inspired heavyweights like Francis De Coppola, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese , would discover a rather faint resonance of the cinematic prowess and panache which he is known for in the film. The reason is perhaps the minimalist approach he has adopted ,or should I say, been forced to adopt(because he has been infirm for the last one decade and had to direct the film from his wheel chair) in his treatment.
Thematically , Bertolucci’s film focuses on a subject which recurs in quite a few of his seminal films at varying degrees---the dynamics of the adolescence psyche and the loss of innocence. Fourteen year old Fabrizio is dying to be alone for a while living his own life in solitude. He equips himself with enough provisions for a week and hibernates down in his mother’s basement having lied to her that he is out on a school skiing trip for a week . But his blissful solitude away from the mumbo jumbo of day to day life is somewhat ruffled up when his half-sister Olivia suddenly emerges from nowhere and discovers him in his hideout. If Fabrizio ,who is desperate to be left alone , is in the throes of some ‘weird’ claustrophilia ,Olivia, once a promising photographer and now a recovering junkie, is no less troubled and tormented a teenager suffering withdrawal symptoms from her drug abuse, and pained by her family’s callous indifference to her. What follows is a modest and minimalist yet considerably absorbing psychological drama of self discovery and reconciliation played out with considerable veracity. It is a film which, cutting across its dismal and gloomy contour, winds up arousing a flipper of optimism.
Given its minimalist context, ‘Me and You’ is a well-shot, well-directed, and well-edited film. The entire story virtually unfolds itself in a stuffy and stingy basement area involving two characters. Quality close quarter cinematography with a judicious blending of shots and angles and spiffy editing rhythms successfully redeem the claustrophobic ambience . Yet one must concede the dash and verve of the maker of ‘The Dreamer’, ‘The Last Emperor’, ‘The Conformists’ and the ‘The Last Tango in Paris’ are palpably conspicuous by their absence in ‘Me and You’ and , and consequently the film, despite being a tonal beauty reminiscent of Bertolucci’s deftness as a top notch director, turns out to be a letdown for his connoisseurs.