I'm Going Home
Is there a secret spirit-of-youth elixir being passed around among the world’s senior filmmakers? The 82-year-old Eric Rohmer’s talkfests flow as entrancingly today as they did in 1969, and now Manoel de Oliveira, the forbidding Portuguese avant-gardist, has had his art-house breakthrough…at 93. I’m Going Home ambles along with the indulgent, shuffleboard pace of an ”old man’s movie,” yet de Oliveira, shooting in long, lingering takes, proves the most playful of sages. He follows the fortunes of an elderly French actor, played by the great Michel Piccoli (himself an aging lion), who is forced to cope with the sudden death of his wife and daughter. The result is something as original as it is unlikely: a study in grief that is flooded with happiness.
Alone for the first time in 50 years, Piccoli’s bereaved thespian doesn’t cut himself off. He nurtures his grandson, buys himself a spiffy pair of shoes (in a sequence that captures the joy of shopping better than any teen-makeover montage), and has his daily espresso at the same café table in what turns into a visual gag of Buñuelian drollness. Yet there’s a catch — a big one — to this man’s serenity, and it emerges when he’s cast to play Buck Mulligan in a chintzy movie version of ”Ulysses.” In ”I’m Going Home,” de Oliveira, as alive as any filmmaker, captures the way that tragedy can eat away at even those who’ve long outlived it.