Thursday, June 13, 2024

“GRAND TOUR”

THE STORYIn 1917, Rangoon, Burma is a city under British colonial rule. Civil servant Edward abandons his fiancée Molly on the day they are to be married. He flees in a state of melancholy, contemplating Molly’s condition. Determined to be married, Molly follows his trail.

THE CASTGonçalo Waddington, Crista Alfaiate, Cláudio da Silva, Lang Khê Tran, Jorge Andrade, João Pedro Vaz, João Pedro Bénard, Teresa Madruga & Joana Bárcia

THE TEAMMiguel Gomes (Director/Writer), Telmo Churro, Maureen Fazendeiro & Mariana Ricardo (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 129 Minutes


Director Miguel Gomez’s new film, “Grand Tour,” is a unique meditation on displacement, movement, imperialism, and narrative. It’s not your typical linear storytelling but a challenging art house film that rewards those willing to take the meandering, occasionally demanding journey with luminous moments of great beauty and inventive wit.

The grand tour was initially a journey of discovery that the English took throughout Europe to take in the splendors of what they still regard as the “continent.” It was a rite of passage popularized by Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, adopted by the Americans, satirized in the novels of Henry James and EM Foster, and finally evolved into modern mass tourism. As such, it always has something of racism to it. The Northern Europeans might visit the sites of Ancient Rome and Greece, but it was commonplace to use the opportunity to deride the locals – the ruins were sublime, and the Greeks and the Italians were less so.

Miguel Gomes’ new film is about two journeys – an escape and a pursuit – which take place throughout the Conradian territory of South East Asia. Edward Abbot (Gonçalo Waddington) is supposed to be reuniting with his fiancé after a separation of seven years. The extended delay and Edward’s apparent urge to continue it – he scarpers before she arrives – calls to mind the narrative deferral of “The Arabian Nights,” which Gomes adapted into an epic trilogy in 2015 – turns up to the story drunk, smoking a pipe and wearing the crushed linen suit which is the uniform of English dissolution from Malcolm Lowry to Josh O’Connor in “La Chimera.” His journey is an evasion, and his encounters are with people who make the retreat a meaningful mission, like the monk flutists playing their music with baskets on their heads. “Abandon yourself to the world and see how generous it is to you,” he is told.

The film’s second part tells the story of Molly Singleton (Christa Alfaiate), his intended one, who has set out in steadfast and stubborn pursuit. She treads the same ground once more from Myanmar (or Burma as it was in the 1917 portion of the film) to Vietnam, Manila, Japan, China, and Tibet. As an extended chase, Molly’s journey is more compelling, and her character is more forceful and direct. She is driven, turns down marriage proposals, and endangers herself and others to pursue an impossible romantic culmination.

Throughout the film, Gomes interlaces contemporary documentary footage of street life, puppetry, and karaoke and finds poetry in it all as compelling as the beautifully shot studio recreations of the period drama. A busy roundabout around which mopeds girate to the sound of Johann Strauss’s “On the Blue Danube makes for a genuine moment of startling poetry. Likewise, the image of a Ferris wheel powered by young men jumping onto it and using their weight to keep it spinning in an exhilarating manner and breaking every health and safety rule in the book is one of the most startling images of the year. The wheels and roundabouts are joined by the coiling pipe smoke and the narrative perambulations, suggesting a self-consuming and endless movement, not tied to any specific time or place and yet only realizable through a particular time and place. On the journey, we shall be constantly wrong-footed – especially by the use of Portuguese for the English characters and the refusal to subtitle other languages – but Gomes is taking us on a journey of revelation if you are willing to take his lead and suffer the indignities, discomfort and risk the tropical diseases which will inevitably be part of the voyage.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - A genuine work of cinematic art that transcends time and space..

THE BAD - Thematically challenging, slowly paced and with lots on its mind both in practice and execution, this certainly, will not be for everyone.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best International Feature

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>A genuine work of cinematic art that transcends time and space..<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Thematically challenging, slowly paced and with lots on its mind both in practice and execution, this certainly, will not be for everyone.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-international-feature/">Best International Feature</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"GRAND TOUR"