Me and You (Italian: Io e te), 2012.
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.
Starring Tea Falco, Jacopo Olmo Antinori, Sonia Bergamasco, Veronica Lazar, Tommaso Ragno, Pippo Delbono.
An an introverted teenager tells his parents he going on a ski trip, but instead spends his time alone in a basement.
Sentimental and occasionally even soppy, unambitious in terms of both scale and theme, always softcore rather than explicit, Me and You is the surprising new picture from Bernardo Bertolucci. After a break of nine years, the director of The Last Emperor and Novecento has confined himself within his smallest space yet: an apartment building’s basement. Arguably, it focuses his directorial efforts, even if the story the film’s built around is so very basic.
What will be immediately noticeable in Me and You is Bertolucci’s diminishing interest in carnal desires. There’s a hint of confusing sexual tension between Lorenzo and Olivia, but that may just be because Bertolucci’s camera is always so erotically charged. It doesn’t come close to the daring seen in the likes of Last Tango in Paris or his last film, The Dreamers. This includes the scale. Even The Dreamers, though again set largely inside a Paris apartment, was all about movies, and movie history, and set against the backdrop of the 1968 student riots.
In Me and You, Bertolucci’s vision is much slimmer, his primary concern being portraying adolescence in an accurate light. This he does with great success: Lorenzo, played by a withdrawn Jacopo Olmo Antinori, feels alienated, the music blasting through his headphones blocking out the schoolkids he’s too afraid to connect with. He rises to anger easily, in one moment erupting at his mother because he doesn’t want his classmates to see her driving him around, screaming inside the vehicle like a frustrated caged animal.
It’s the reason he retreats underground – Lorenzo wants to go unnoticed and shut out the rest of the world. He’s 14, yearning for adulthood independence but not entirely dismissing his childhood self, seeing his basement relocation and trips to the pet store as adventures. He is your typical confused teenager, but not one that the movies often get right. It extends to his relationship with his estranged sister, though this is something the film fails to really get to grips with.
The problem with Me and You isn’t really that Bertolucci is refusing to play to his usual strengths. In fact, in toning down the sexuality and muting his grand scope, Bertolucci’s framing and skill at directing actors become more apparent. Rather, it’s that the film is essentially a two-hander, and that one of those hands doesn’t really work. Tea Falco is fine as Olivia, but the character never gains our sympathy. A recovering junkie, she’s a wretching brute that threatens Lorenzo’s status quo, treats him with contempt and vomits all over his new place. Worse, their emotional reunion feels forced, probably because Olivia’s late turnaround is so sudden.
Me and You will be dismissed as minor Bertolucci, and it is, but just how many more Bertolucci films are we going to get? It’s not something that should be brushed aside – the filmmaker is still an individual, just one that’s shifted his concerns so they can fit inside a tiny apartment block. The Italian maestro’s first film in almost a decade is good-looking and sets its sights on one thing: depicting all the angst, fear and confusion of being teenaged. And it gets it so right.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Brogan Morris – Lover of film, writer of words, pretentious beyond belief. Thinks Scorsese and Kubrick are the kings of cinema, but PT Anderson and David Fincher are the young princes. Follow Brogan on Twitter if you can take shameless self-promotion.