Me and You (Io e te) Review

Troubled Rome teenager Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) tells his mother Arianna (Sonia Bergamasco) that he is going on a school skiing trip, but in reality plans to spend the week hiding in the basement of their appartment block with enough supplies to last him. But then his older half-sister Olivia (Tea Falco) turns up. A heroin addict trying to kick the drug, Olivia threatens to reveal where Lorenzo is and he is forced to let her stay in the basement with him...

Me and You (Io e te) is based on a short novel, or novella, by Niccolò Ammaniti, with Ammaniti, Umberto Contarello, Francesca Marciano and Bernardo Bertolucci credited with the screenplay. It is Bernardo Bertolucci's first film in nine years, since The Dreamers in 2002. Like that, and 1998's Besieged it's very much a small-scale chamber work, in this case mostly involving two characters and one location, a basement. The director's age (seventy-three as of this writing) and state of health (wheelchair-bound) may well have something to do with this retreat from his sometimes epic-scaled earlier work. However, there is a fine line between chamber works or minor-key works and slight works, and Me and You crosses that line into the latter.

It's clear from the opening scene – a visit to a psychiatrist – that Lorenzo has his issues, anger management being clearly one of them. In an early scene in a restaurant, where he speculates that he and his mother might be mistaken for a couple instead of mother and son and then goes on to wonder what would happen if they were the last two people on the planet and had to repopulate the species, and would they have a boy or a girl, he creeps out his mother and may well have that effect on the audience as well. (You may be reminded of Bertolucci's film La Luna from 1979, which had more than a hint of Oedipal goings-on.) Yet Lorenzo doesn't really convince as a teenager, being actually rather well-behaved (considering) and prone to reading books while in his basement hideout rather than playing games or the like. (I'm not suggesting bookish teenagers don't exist, as they certainly do, but Lorenzo doesn't convince me as one.) His taste in music is a mix of contemporary (Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arcade Fire) and retro (The Cure and both the English and Italian versions of David Bowie's “Space Oddity”, the latter with different lyrics and called “Ragazzo solo, Ragazza sola” ("Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl").)

Olivia, appearing a third of the way through, gives the film much more life and is rather more convincing as a twentysomething junkie than Lorenzo is as a petulant brat. The interaction between the previously separated siblings gives the film its motor. Me and You is certainly well acted and Bertolucci's visual flair is much in evidence – there's a striking if showoffy scene shot upwards through a glass ceiling/floor on which the actors perform – and it's certainly watchable while being inconsequential all the same. Bertolucci is a man who has made his share of great films, but you have to wonder if his best work is behind him.

The Blu-ray

Me and You is released by Artificial Eye on DVD and Blu-ray. The latter was the checkdisc sent for review, and the affliate links refer to the that edition. For those for the DVD, go here.

Me and You was shot on film, in 3-perf Super 35, and clearly had some colour-heightening done digitally in post-production. The aspect ratio of the Blu-ray is 1.85:1, and thereby hangs a mystery. The IMDB and Sight & Sound both give the aspect ratio as 2.35:1. I can't confirm that, not having seen this film in the cinema, and I will say that neither source is infallible when it comes to ratios. On the other hand, all the trailers I've found online, and the one on the disc, are 1.85:1, and in the making-of you can see a shot of the video monitor on set with lines delineating that aspect ratio rather than the wider one. And I'm pretty certain I've never seen an Artificial Eye disc which gets this wrong (okay, some are 1.78:1 instead of 1.85:1, but that's too picky by half) so if the film was shown in cinemas in Scope, then with the lack of any evidence to the contrary I would suggest the narrower ratio is a directorial choice for home-viewing, and not the first time this has happened. So I'm not marking down the transfer as I might otherwise have done. As you would expect from this distributor, it's an entirely solid job, with solid blacks and a coolish visual palette with bursts of vivid colours.

The soundtrack has two options, DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM Surround. There isn't much use of the surrounds except for ambience and the music as mentioned above. The latter is the main beneficiary of the DTS-HD track, and is mixed louder on it, with the subwoofer filling in its low end. Any bassists watching this Blu-ray have an opportunity to play along with Herbie Flowers's celebrated contribution to “Space Oddity” in both versions. This Italian-language film has optional English subtitles.

The main extra is “Electric Chair” (47:39), a making-of documentary. We begin in pre-production and a shot of Bertolucci making a presentation of a lifetime award to his compatriot Marco Bellochio and relating a story about being approached by an admirer who had loved his work ever since he saw (Bellochio's) Fists in the Pocket. We see Bertolucci and DP Fabio Cianchetti considering shooting the film digitally before deciding to use film. Bertolucci's many-time producer (though not on this film) Jeremy Thomas speculates while visiting the set that this may well be one of the last films shot on 35mm stock, which will soon cease to be manufactured. Halfway through production, Richard Gere visits the set and reveals that he once hid in a basement as a child in much the same way Lorenzo does...though his mother later told him she knew he was there all along. It's a well-done making-of, giving Bertolucci quite a few opportunities to talk about cinema, which is clearly his first and last love.

The other extra is the trailer, which runs 1:17.

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