A film about self-perception, family and vengeance, Sorrentino’s film is a fantastic original work that will only grow in stature with time.
This Must Be the Place
Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be the Place is a film I love so much I cannot even begin to put into words why. If someone were to ask me to make a list of films that are the reason why I love film, this would surely be on it. This movie as unique as a snow flake, a one of a kind ace, a film like almost nothing I have seen before.
When I finished the film, I had a massive grin on my face that I tried (but could not) remove from my face 10 minutes after it had finished. A movie that is so good, as it was ending my heart beat faster and goose bumps rose from my arms.
The only film I could even come close to thinking it reminded me of was Wim Wender’s gleefully fantastic 80’s indie film Paris, Texas. A film I also adored. Wender’s film concerned itself with a man who was a mute who was caught walking across the desert with no recollection of who, what, where, or why. Beautifully shot landscapes with intimate and silent scenes filled with honesty and emotion. This Must Be the Place essentially has the fantastic landscapes and that’s about it, but for some reason I was reminded of Paris, Texas. I am not alone either. Maybe it is because both are films mainly shot in America by foreign directors. I do not know.
The film starts out in Ireland, our hero is Cheyenne (Sean Penn), a retired rock star who looks like the offspring mixture Robert Smith of The Cure and Tim Burton. I apologize for that image. He is played magnificently by Sean Penn who adds yet another unbelievable performance to his career. Living in a mansion in Dublin with his wife, Jane (Frances McDormand, who is also great), he spends most his days playing handball in his waterless pool and cooking frozen pizzas.
One of the best things about This Must Be the Place is that you do not even know where the movie is headed until about 50 minutes in when Cheyenne is called to New York to see his dying father. I love that the movie just flows for the first 50 minutes. Just observing Cheyenne and his quirky lifestyle hanging around the mall with his grungy dressed friend or watching his wife go to work as a firefighter.
Then Cheyenne gets the call to see his father. He flies to New York only to arrive too late. His father has passed on. But soon he finds out that his father, along with a Jewish Nazi hunter (played brilliantly by Judd Hirsch), have been hunting down his torturer from World War II.
And thus we are sent on a completely original journey about a retired rock star who makes it his mission to hunt down and kill his father’s Nazi nemesis. Obtaining a truck from a greasy business man, Cheyenne sets out across America in search of the treacherous Nazi. I chuckled at the images of an emo looking middle aged man driving a massive 4×4 truck down the highways of America. Along the way he meets oddities such as the Nazi’s ex-wife who is actually a former history teacher in a Midwestern state. Now an elderly lady she lives with an old friend and a goose who consistently honks at Cheyenne.
He meets a woman, who may or may not be involved with his quest, who lives in the desert with her overweight son. She waitresses at a local diner while he argues with Cheyenne about who originally sings the song the film is named after. The kid says Arcade Fire. Cheyenne says Talking Heads. After a minute of disagreement, they sing the song together. We learn Cheyenne also happens to be a fantastic Ping Pong player as he schools a young man. Who would have thought?
One of the best scenes involves Cheyenne running into an old man at a diner late in his journey. He is played by Harry Dean Stanton, who by the way was the hero of Paris, Texas. My connection came before Stanton entered the film in case you were wondering. When asked if he knows an old German in town he replies, “That could only be one man, but let me tell you about suitcases first.” Then proceeds to talk about selling suitcases and then directs Cheyenne to the famous German of the town.
This Must Be the Place is a true original. A movie that soars above just about everything else, filled with fantastic cinematography, funny performances and scenes that are consistently better than the ones prior. Movies that get better and better with each scene are rare. The film’s confrontational scene with Cheyenne and the Nazi henchman is done so well, I almost could not believe it.
A film about self-perception, family and vengeance, Sorrentino’s film is a fantastic original work that will only grow in stature with time. I absolutely loved This Must Be the Place.