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Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Piero Messina | L'attesa (The Wait)
waiting on the dead
by Douglas Messerli
Giacomo Bendotti, Ilaria Macchia, Andrea Paolo Massara, and Piero Messina (based on the play La vita che ti diedi by Luigi Pirandello), Piero Messina (director) L’attesa (The Wait) / 2015, USA 2016
In the very midst of a funeral for her son, Giuseppe, grieving Anna (Juliette Binoche) receives a telephone message: her son’s girlfriend, Jeanne (Lou de Laâge) has just arrived in Sicily to be with her lover. Instead of sending the poor girl packing, Anna dispatches her servant out to pick her up, while friends and relatives gather in the darkened villa to mourn.
The following morning Anna explains that it was her brother who has died, the first of many lies she tells the innocent girl. But the worst of her lies, which both her sister-in-law and handyman cannot forgive her, is that Giuseppe is simply not there yet, and will probably return in time for Easter celebrations.
So begins Messina’s beautiful and somewhat haunting film, where, for reasons of her own, Anna keeps the young Jeanne on in her villa, cooking for her and even for two local boys whom Jeanne casually encounters in the nearby lake.
Some of this, admittedly, seems to be merely confusing for the uninitiated viewer, but, of course, that same confusion washes over Jeanne, who repeatedly describes in her telephone calls, attempting to reach her missing boyfriend, that his mother is “odd.”
Anna is far more than odd, of course, as, at moments, the film, loosely based on a play by Luigi Pirandello, veers towards the kind of haunted tale wherein the young heroine is being toyed with by a lunatic. Indeed, when Anna attempts to tell Jeanne another half-truth, that her son is not coming back and has gone away permanently, she suggests that the girl herself is responsible, that he has left because of “what happened last summer.” Clearly, Anna has been listening in to her son’s telephonic messages.
Through the handyman’s help—he purposely places Anna’s pocket phone within reach of the girl—Jeanne finally does uncover the mother’s own pleas to her son to pick up the phone and respond, presumably after he was already dead.
Jeanne, predictably, is quite destroyed by the discovery; but as she turns to leave this “odd” woman, she nonetheless forgives her for her behavior. The visit has turned her from an innocent waif into a mature woman, who obviously will behave less casually in the future. Certainly, she will never again make a surprise trip to a future lover’s home.
Los Angeles, May 2, 2016