Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spring (2014)

Splash 2
Spring is Sprung, The Grass is Ris.  
I Wonder What My Girlfriend Is.

Relationships are messy. They're complicated. Just ask Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), who is in Italy on...well, it's not really a vacation, so much as a "reset." He needs it. His life has up-heaved extremely: his mother, for whom he was care-taking, has passed, and his mood has considerably darkened, so much so that the bar he had been working for has fired him after stepping in to stop an altercation and taking the fight a might too far. On advice, he takes an impromptu trip to Italy to decompress.  

He's footloose now. No job, no family. But, even though he's lost the loved one, the echo of the commitment still lingers. And you never really lose yourself or the basic character such a task requires.

No matter where you go, there you are.

So, he's hooked up with some rough-Brit dudes for transportation and beer-pooling and the living is day-to-day, city-to-city. But, while walking the cobblestone-streets of Puglia, he sees a girl.

Pretty, short-skirt, eating a gelato. That's the gist. He notices enough to pivot as he walks, and she notices right back, but the impromptu road-travelers have beers to drink and move on. But, that's not the last he sees of her.

At a local birreria, the trio are enough in their cups to start laying on the braggadocio and that usually leads to le donne. Evan spots the same girl from the street at the bar, and a small wager is made whether he can pick her up. When he gets there, Evan finds that she's all too willing to take him up on his suggestion, and her aggressiveness is a little off-putting. He begins to think she's a hooker, and is dumb enough (or drunk enough) to ask. The woman, Louise (Nadia Spilker), is a little repulsed by this and disappears into the bar, leaving Evan wondering what just happened.

Lira being tight, he settles in, ditches the Brits and finds a job working a farm for an ancient widower Angelo (Francesco Carnelutti), who takes on the kid, despite his having no experience at all. Nights he goes into town and there's Louise.  Evan's intrigued by her, attracted, regrets his earlier indiscretion and pursues her and, although Louise is initially reluctant, warms up to him.

They begin a relationship, dating, getting intimate, but it's a relationship without cell-phones, IM, or e-mail. They encounter each other, meet up, and develop a mutual dependency. But, Louise is secretive...mysterious even (which attracts Evan), becomes unavailable and rushes off like Cinderella after the ball. We know how that story goes. Evan becomes even more curious.
Spring is an odd little polyglot of a movie combining the genres of romance, sci-fi, and horror.  As one critic put it (see the poster) it's a "hybrid of Richard Linklater* and H.P. Lovecraft." For Louise has a secret. A big secret. A dark secret. I'd tell you about it if I really understood it, but it's one of those concepts that's extremely nebulous, an art director's dream for imagining, but a little tough to decipher when answers are asked, as the execution of the "explanation" scene is full of detail, but a little spare on the big picture, like a lot of relationship conversations. Nobody comes right out and says anything, but it's more walking the "verbal tightrope," the treacherous territory inspired by desire, need and self-preservation, but avoiding any missteps that could come at any time. It's a game of "battleship" where you not only don't know where the mines are, but also, especially in a new relationship, what the playing field even looks like. Any miscalculation or ill-considered remark will blow up in your face, removing all hope.
So, "that" scene—the "Basil Exposition" scene—doesn't work. The audience might demand it, for some resolution, some closure, but it would have been better to just leave the "defining moment" alone. To say too much would spoil it** (and I'd actually have to know what I was talking about), but the movie works without it, because it is familiar—it is about meeting someone special and dealing with their "baggage" because maybe that history is what made them the person you're attracted to...and because—simply—you care about them. In that way, Spring is like The Crying Game or Let the Right One In—or any horror story with love at the center of its tell-tale heart. Even Twilight (shudder).

Because selflessness is impartial. Caring knows no boundaries. Love is love (if it's done right), and you enter into a malleable situation when you're in a relationship. Things change, people get changed by them. And if you cut bait when the boat starts to rock, it says more about you than it does about what's left behind. As Evan still loved his Mom when she was dying, so he loves Louise, despite her moods, her disappearances, the occasional nearby homicide, and the appearance of an errant, unwanted tendril. We can't fight our nature...or Nature. As they say in Jurassic Park, it finds a way.  So does love.
So, Spring is fascinating and frustrating—like new love. It doesn't provide any answers, only more questions—ditto. It's final enigmatic image—illusion? flashback? portent? disastrous reality?—haunts.   

It may not be everyone's fancy.  But it does give one hope.

* Specifically, his Before...movies.

** One thing really bugs me, though...as it did with the "Twilight" movies and it has to do with the writing (and the mention of it contains a big SPOILER):  Louise, like Edward Cullen, has years over her paramour, but the character and the writing doesn't reflect that. Long life brings a wisdom and a "been there, done that, avoid it" aspect that Louise's character just doesn't possess in the movie—she's been through this many times, she's an old soul in a young body. So, why does she act like she's going through this the first time? Where's the knowledge. the experience (or even some arcane reference or word-usage) that long life would bring to the character? Where's the indication that she really has lived that long, reflected in her character?  

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