A bittersweet Swedish comedy about communal living and loneliness at the Pageant
Loosey-goosey comedy and wistful drama are the stock-in-trade of Together, an amiable Swedish film about a group of would-be rebels living in a commune circa 1970.
Director Lukas Moodysson’s shambling foray follows a dozen or so characters through the sexual experimentation, open relationships, gender bending and the attempted reinvention of all social relations that marked the 1960s and their immediate aftermath. Moodysson has no particular axe to grind, and he and a pair of screenwriters have shaped the group portrait into a semi-complex fable about loneliness in modern society.
The commune in question includes assorted hippie types, a headstrong Marxist theorist, a born-again lesbian, a would-be transsexual, and several couples whose relationships are in various states of impending crisis. The pivotal figure among these is Goran, a woolly looking nice-guy type who is wallowing through an “open” relationship with his highly sexed girlfriend and who brings his sister and her two kids into the commune after her husband, a sulky plumber, slugs her. The commune remains the central focus, but a neighboring middle class family and one of the plumber’s customers get intimately involved in the action as well.
Much of this bittersweet film is a laid-back bedroom farce, but with less attention to sex per se than to needy couplings that are sometimes sexual and sometimes not. Moodysson and company never give up on the possibilities of a communal togetherness, but the cumulative impression from all this is that one-on-one relationships are the richest source of togetherness and a crucial deterrent to it at the same time.
The grubby-looking visuals ensure that there is no heavy nostalgia in this sidelong period piece, but Moodysson and his writers preserve a measure of wary sympathy for the characters’ faltering pursuit of their utopian dreams.
And Hammersten’s shaggy-dog pathos in the role of Goran helps set a tone of rueful generosity and scaled-back dreaming.
In The Last Castle, Robert Redford plays a three-star general who has pled guilty in a court martial and been sentenced to 10 years in a military prison run by a pedantic sadist played by James Gandolfini. When Gen. Irwin (Redford) gets some first-hand tastes of the sometimes-lethal disciplinary policies of Col. Winter (Gandolfini), the seeds are planted for an inmate rebellion with the blue-eyed general leading the way.
The Redford-Gandolfini match-up makes for a good light-heavyweight thespian slugfest, but it’s also enough of an iconic mismatch that you’re not going to be very surprised about which of them prevails in the end. The casting cuts both ways, however: Redford’s star power and glamour bring Old Soldier glories to this prison drama with a military twist, while Gandolfini’s superbly fine-tuned performance as Col. Winter gives an unexpected touch of class to what might otherwise be a rabble-rousing male-action flick of a very conventional sort.
Gen. Irwin’s prison revolt eventually involves some waving of Old Glory, which may or may not be semi-ironic, but as a prison drama The Last Castle is a little like Cool Hand Luke grafted onto The Dirty Dozen with West Point grads in the key roles. Redford is better with the General’s cagey defiance than with his guilt and regrets. Gandolfini, meanwhile, is brilliant with the warden’s bookishly understated viciousness.