THIS MUST BE THE PLACE
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Screenwriters: Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello
Harry Dean Stanton
Runtime: 118 mins.
Australian release date: 5 April 2012
In This Must Be The Place, Sean Penn plays ageing rock Goth, Cheyenne, seeming to channel an ageing Robert Smith from The Cure. How intriguing is that? Well, in this rather bizarre Italian, French, Irish co-pro directed by Paolo Sorrentino, the bizarre becomes quite mesmerising, and not only because of Penn’s knockout eye-liner - his performance is mesmerising, too.
Retired to a sprawling country estate in Dublin, Cheyenne is deflated by life and a career that went belly-up when a fan committed suicide after listening to the lyrics of one of his songs. He shuffles around his mansion as though he is living the words of Talking Heads’ eponymous title song from 1983 – Home is where I want to be, Pick me up and turn me round, I feel numb – burn with a weak heart. His sardonic yet compassionate wife Jane (Frances McDormand) keeps him company in his self-imposed exile from the world. When he learns of his estranged father’s death, Cheyenne decides to set off on a road trip through the USA to hunt down the Nazi who tormented his father in a prison camp in the Second World War.
Along the way we are introduced to an array of strange characters like Mary (Eve Hewson), a young, loyal, sympathetic fan, Mordecai Midler (Judd Hirsch), a long-suffering Nazi hunter and, even more weirdly, Robert Plath (Harry Dean Stanton) the inventor of the suitcase with wheels - go figure! Cheyenne also hooks up with David Byrne in New York where, in an almost surreal scene, he reveals how much he looks up to Byrne (who plays himself and also co-wrote the film’s music) as a true artist. It follows one of the most enjoyable music scenes on film where Byrne does a truly foot-tapping rendition of This Must Be The Place.
This is a perplexing film, totally off the air and yet resonating with reason as Cheyenne tries to come to grips with a life that he perceives as made up of pieces of shit (which happens to be the name of a band he encounters on a visit to his local shopping mall in Dublin). If you want to see one of the weirdest, most original films to come out in recent times, then do not miss this one. It will reward you for days after the final credits have faded to black.