We’ll begin with Variety‘s Scott Foundas: “As it was in Olivier Assayas’s Summer Hours, a house is much more than a home in A Castle in Italy; it’s a repository of art, memories, lives lived in full and others cut short. The third semi-autobiographical feature for Italian-French multihyphenate Valeria Bruni Tedeschi once again follows the personal trials of beautiful bourgeois characters in and around the performing arts world, touching on themes of mortality and middle-aged panic in a mostly breezy, intelligent style.”
And now, Jessica Kiang at the Playlist: “We took notice of the film in advance mainly because it made headlines as the Cannes Competition’s sole entry from a female director and, as handsomely shot and occasionally diverting as the film is, it’s also terrifyingly bourgeois. For every moment of comedy that lands or drama that touches a nerve, there are ten of ‘why the bloody hell should I bloody care?’ or ‘cry me a river, you had to sell your Brueghel. (eldiariony.com) ’ Bruni-Tedeschi undoubtedly has talent both as an actress (she takes the lead role here) and behind the camera, but we can’t help but feel that her dramatic strengths—familial relationships, odd romances, religious (specifically Catholic) dilettantism—could have played in a less rarefied setting to more universal sympathy. As it is, detailing the gradual decline in fortune of a rich European family, her film amounts to little more than an occasionally charming glimpse at people whose life events we might relate to, but whose lifestyle keeps getting in the way.”
If I find a trailer with English subtitles,
it’ll replace this one.
BFI programmer Geoff Andrew sets it up in Time Out London: “Bruni Tedeschi takes the lead role as Louise, a retired unmarried actress in her forties, and sister of the ailing Ludovic (based on her own brother, to whom the film is dedicated, and played by Filippo Timi). Her desire for children may or may not be fulfilled when she meets and is pursued by the somewhat younger Nathan (Louis Garrel, until recently Tedeschi’s real-life partner), who is also in doubt about his acting career. If the film can be said to centre on anything, it’s on Louise’s relationships with these two men, though it’s actually an ensemble piece which finds ample room for her mother (Marisa Borini, Tedeschi’s mother), an alcoholic artist (a well cast Xavier Beauvois), Ludovic’s girlfriend and Nathan’s parents.”
It’s “a semi-autobiographical reflection on love, death and a retreating world of privilege that signals its debt to The Cherry Orchard with the unsubtle thud of a falling tree—literally.” David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter: “While a character inspired by the director’s famous sister, the former French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, is notably missing, other aspects of the story draw directly from real life…. The generous applause at the film’s Cannes premiere may in part have been fueled by the knowledge that this was obviously a cathartic exploration of family history. Beyond the Croisette bubble, however, it’s hard to imagine many audiences warming to these bourgeois folks.”
Tim Grierson for Screen: “Bruni Tedeschi has crafted a novelistic portrait of a family over the course of an eventful year, but its central figure, a former actress played by Bruni Tedeschi herself, is indicative of the film’s problems as a whole: She’s likeable in small doses, but she’s not quite as amusing as she thinks she is.”
But at Cineuropa, Fabien Lemercier appreciates the overall “melancholic charm tinted with bursts of comedy.”
Updates: “Imagine Summer Hours stripped of beauty, tenderness, grace, intelligence, and coherence, and then toss in the ever-callow Louis Garrel as an on-again, off-again love interest for good measure,” sighs Mike D’Angelo, who gives Castle a D+ at the AV Club. He also wonders what it’s doing in the Competition lineup while Claire Denis gets shunted off to Un Certain Regard.
At RogerEbert.com, Michał Oleszczyk suggests that Castle‘s slot would have been better filled by “a truly original work, like Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake,” another Un Certain Regard title. Or: “Give the same premise to Agnès Jaoui, and I bet she would come up with a work of more subtlety, gravity and humor than Tedeschi’s pet project.”
Updates, 5/22: For the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw, Castle “may well turn out to be the most insidiously awful film in the entire festival: a strained jeu d’ésprit which is smug, precious, carelessly constructed, emotionally negligible, and above all fantastically annoying.”
Fabien Lemercier interviews Bruni Tedeschi for Cineuropa.
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