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So what if it's a sad, often maudlin French film about death and mourning - did I mention Salma Hayek plays a stripper in it....?
MPI / 106 Minutes / 2011 / Unrated / Street Date: October 30, 2012
The pedigree behind Mathieu Demy's Americano is completely irresistible for any cinephile with an arthouse bent. The son of directors Agnes Vardy and Jacques Demy, what makes Americano so thrilling on paper is that this heir to mid-century cinematic accomplishment appears to be more interested in embracing and then construing metafilmic ideas about his personal and cinematic history than attempting to shy away from it: he knows Americano has baggage, and he's happy in addressing this.
In fact, the film starts with his character, Martin, getting it on with young Claire (Chiara Mastroianni, real-life daughter of Catherine Deneuve) - talk about a fusing of talents! Anyhow, the thrill of orgasm quickly recedes when Martin gets a call that his mother has died, and that he must leave France and head to Los Angeles to begin the arduous process of cobbling together memere's estate. He revisits places with old memories for him, he encounters important figures from his mom's life (most notably the incomparable Geraldine Chaplin, as an old friend), and seeing as Americano must in some ways stay true to its cover art, he chases after a hot young thing (in the form of Salma Hayek).
Americano is certainly more elusive and meditative than I was expecting, and even if the movie meanders a bit in its second half, there's some bold and adventurous filmmaking at hand here. Demy borrows successfully from both sides of his family, and the result is an incisive, bawdy mix that creates a product that is certainly more than the sum of its parts. Americano is no classic, alas, but if Mathieu Demy keeps taking chances like his does in this picture, he'll have quite a career - of his own distinct regard, thank you very much - ahead of him.