The American – Review
Posted by Editor on October 10, 2010 | No Comments
FILM – The American
PRODUCER – Anne Carey, George Clooney , Jill Green, Grant Heslov, Ann Wingate
DIRECTOR – Anton Corbijin
SCREENPLAY – Rowan Joffe (Based on the book ‘A very private gentleman’ by Martin Booth)
CAST – George Clooney, Irina Björklund, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacell
MUSIC – Herbert Grönemeye
‘A very private gentleman’ is perhaps the best description of this film which has a brooding, silent and completely shut down George Clooney as its main character. The film is wrought with a lurking suspense that revolves around Clooney’s Jack/Edward that is an extension of the frown on the protagonist’s forehead. ‘A very private gentleman’ is a very apt title indeed.
This gentleman is in hiding because his last assignment went wrong. He comes to Italy to lie low while he completes his last assignment. But Italy stirs his soul and knocks at doors he has seemingly shut tight. The American, gradually is moved to open the doors and face the vulnerability. Will he succeed? And if he will, then what will be the price to pay?
As an opening into the darkness of his soul, the film opens with a sequence with Jack in a snowed-out cabin with a blissful lady hanging lovingly on his arm and in a minutes time he murders her in icy cold-blood. No regrets, no stirring. The resounding silence perhaps telling more than his stony face.
Jack’s world is a conundrum and so is the film constructed as such. It reveals nothing except what lies at the surface. The still and reserved Jack holds his secrets close to his heart and the film shows this stuffy claustrophobia with extreme close-ups. The American Jack is a craftsman pretending to be an artist in Italy and so is the film more a work of craftsmanship rather an art piece. It has nothing much to say but makes a gala event of saying it and the flourish is crafty, engaging even while there is nothing much going on.
The American gives a bow to arthouse cinema with its European setting, bare basic cinematography, brooding atmosphere, minimal dialogue and the bare audiographics. Sound has been used as a weapon as much as the camera is. Sexual undertones are as tightly wrought as much as the sexual chemistry lurks just below the surface as Mathilde, the woman for whom Jack is making the weapon with silencer, veers from the innocuous client to the siren to the vamp.
The film, after a languid three-fourths finally moves to a conclusion which touches upon the answers to Jack’s dilemmas and tries to reach out with the universal message of love. Guilt and past secrets tumble out, not releasing Jack but in the character of the priest, who becomes a sort of alter-ego and guiding angel of Jack. He and Clara, the prostitute in love with him, together drive Jack to a predictable yet unconvincing destination of renewal. The end to this journey is another tribute to the sensibilities of parallel cinema, evocative of harsher realities in the best of intentions.
George Clooney’s Jack veers from nervy to edgy to tormented to stony in swift transitions and the disturbance of his soul is well contained behind that about to burst frown on his forehead. It is to the slight discredit of the treatment that the deep torments of his soul are not more compelling but weave around, slowly revealing themselves as the films screenplay itself does. Languid and watery, both play a good role in what the film ultimately becomes as a film and as an experience.