Kingsley's Still a Sexy Beast
For those who come to watch "Elegy" because they've heard it contains sex, nudity and PenÃ©lope Cruz will not be disappointed but I would hope they got more from this movie than just cheap titillation. "Elegy" is a masterful look at relationships from a man's perspective and it covers it from various angles, you have the older man dating the much younger woman, his fear of commitment and rejection, his primal urges and so much more. Basically we are taken on a journey into the world of relationships and the truthfulness of this story leaps from the screen. Yes "Elegy" is a bit different, it's not what you would call mainstream entertainment, with regular long moments of silence but with strong, full rounded characters and a mix of emotions it is still entertaining.
David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley - Sexy Beast) is a respected professor of literature, a lover of studying hedonism and a man who lives the life he studies as despite his advancing years indulges in sexual relationships with young students as well as Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson) a woman closer to his age who he hooks up with when ever she is in town. But then he meets 24 year old Consuela (PenÃ©lope Cruz - Noel) and whilst he initially wants to seduce her soon realises that she is more than just another good night, he becomes enchanted by her, feeling emotions he has never felt before and whilst his friend George (Dennis Hopper - Land of the Dead) tells him to grow up and end it he can't bring himself too. But will a life time of trying to live a free independent life cut short what could be a beautiful relationship.
I mentioned that "Elegy" is not mainstream and the open scene which sees David Kepesh discussing hedonism and Puritanism is certainly enough to deter those who came to watch in search of sex. But whilst different to the norm it is no less entertaining as this opening helps establish his character, a man who was married but felt imprisoned by it so much he abandoned his family and now indulges in the pursuit of sex be it with his students or his steady sex partner who he hooks up with when ever she is in town. Within the first 15 minutes you know exactly who Kepesh is, what sort of man he is but also the fact that when he met Consuela Castillo she affects him in a very different way, a way he has never felt before.
Now having established this strong character the majority of the movie deals with how he deals with his relationship to Consuela. We watch how he is like a young man when they start their affair, how he treats her with respect prior to them sleeping together and talks to his friend about how special she is. But with David being much older we then get his insecurity, his fear that when he is not with Consuela she will be seeing younger men leading to a state of paranoia, and it has to be said a very real paranoia. We also have the issue of Consuela wanting him to meet her parents but fears doing so, part for what they will think but also partly out of fear that it is commitment. All of which contributes to his feelings that maybe they shouldn't be seeing each other despite being in love with her, something which he has never felt before leaving him confused.
But that is just the main story and running alongside this is his relationship with close friend poet George O'Hearn, the relationship he has with Carolyn who he hooks up with when she is in town as well the estranged relationship with his son. So on top of having this examination of a relationship from a man's point of view we also get the influence of his friends, their thoughts as well as issues all of which add to the emotion of this story. But we also get real life, this is a real relationship with its ups and downs, love and pain and as such Â£Elegy" isn't some fluffy romantic piece, this is intelligent drama.
Of course there is the sex side to "Elegy" and there is no denying that director Isabel Coixet hasn't shied away from embracing the physical side of David's character, this is a man who loves sex and the female form. And as such there is nudity and sex, plenty of it, but "Elegy" isn't cheap titillation, these scenes of erotica are artistically filmed, adding to the story and establishing characters. Yes certain discussions are a little surprising as Consuela tells David about some of her previous sexual encounters but again this is character forming elements.
Now whilst there is plenty of story and drama "Elegy" is very much an actors movie and there are terrific performances from the likes of Patricia Clarkson, Dennis Hopper and PenÃ©lope Cruz. But "Elegy" is a movie which works because of Ben Kingsley and the way he creates such a 3 dimensional character, it reminds us what a great actor he is, especially when you've watched him in the best forgotten "The Love Guru". It's thanks to Kingsley that we truly understand David, what he is about and how his relationship with Consuela changes and challenges him and as such we watch his character change as the movie progresses. It's not all heavy acting from Kingsley and the scenes he shares with Dennis Hopper are amusing but also some of the most touching.
What this all boils down to is that "Elegy" is a brilliant look at a relationship from a man's point of view. And it is such a real relationship with ups and down as well as paranoia causing issues. "Elegy" is by no means mainstream entertainment but it is not so arty that it alienates audiences, allowing them in and to understand the emotional depth of the story.
Tags: Age Gap Romances