Trailblazing director Sally Potter’s newest brief movie “Look At Me,” a verbal battle of wills between a combative rock drummer (Javier Bardem) and the harried director of a fundraising gala (Chris Rock), is a passionate Trump-era time capsule that includes two mesmerizing performances from its leads.
The brief was initially conceived as a part of Potter’s profoundly private 2020 movie “The Roads Not Taken,” which starred Bardem as a Mexican-American man named Leo whose dementia sees him touring inside his thoughts via previous decisions and Elle Fanning as his grown daughter tasked together with his care. Early on within the filmmaking course of, Potter realized that this sequence wouldn’t match into what would turn into that movie’s nonlinear, triptych construction.
Taken by itself, outdoors the story created for Leo within the authentic movie, “Look At Me” throws viewers instantly right into a tense scene already in movement. Harnessing all this power, Bardem’s irascible drummer is burly and brusque. He’s an artist at first, who doesn’t wish to be merely the beat for a dancer (Savion Glover). He’s additionally an addict who has burned many bridges on his rocky highway to restoration.
In his position because the gala director, Rock reminds us that he’s able to a layered, nuanced efficiency given the suitable materials. His direct, matter-of-fact method of talking matches Leo’s combativeness, revealing a extra complicated relationship between the 2 males than simply employer-employee. Slowly we be taught the reality behind how these two males know one another and the depths of their connection. The friction and later concord between Bardem and Rock are deeply felt and poetically shot.
Cinematographer Robbie Ryan makes use of expressive lighting – wealthy hues of main blue and purple – in addition to an enveloping darkness to set the temper for the brief. It’s indignant, and it’s passionate, with an undercurrent of each a deep disappointment and a resilience of spirit. Potter, who additionally skilled as a dancer, usually has Ryan’s digicam observe her actors as if they’re companions in a dance with the machine, imbuing the movie with an plain verve. This playful motion contrasts properly with the brutalist cement room through which the gala is to happen, in addition to the isolating vacancy of the cityscape that envelopes Leo.
The movie’s satirical setting – a fundraising gala the place Bardem (enjoying Mexican) and Glover are requested to carry out in literal cages – serves to lampoon well-meaning liberals who use the identical grammar as these they oppose (on this case the atrocious actions towards undocumented immigrants by the Trump administration). That we by no means see the precise wealthy elites they’re set to carry out for might be finest, as the main focus just isn’t on them however on those that should commodify themselves and their trauma so as to not solely survive however reside richly on this harsh world.
Whereas the central metaphor is a bit on the nostril, and the ultimate scene within the movie is nearly as patronizing because the well-meaning liberals she’s satirizing, the dedicated and impassioned performances from each Bardem and Rock preserve “Look At Me” from sinking into treacly territory.
Potter has lengthy flown below the radar as one of many nice filmmakers of the final forty years. From her startling debut “The Gold Diggers” to her best-known movie “Orlando” and all the things in between, Potter has experimented with type and tone, and construction, by no means repeating herself and at all times grounding her movies within the politics of being alive.
Her newest brief, “Look At Me,” serves as a reminder of her expertise as a visible storyteller and her dedication to utilizing movie to deal with energy constructions. A reminder that you may’t— and shouldn’t ever— look away from them. [B]