Credit: Locarno Film Festival
by M.G. Mailloux Film

Where Are You | Riccardo Spinotti & Valentina de Amicis

August 18, 2021

Snuck into Locarno’s Histoire(s) du cinéma section (generally reserved for restorations and works explicitly about film history), husband/wife directing duo Riccardo Spinotti and Valentina de AmicisWhere Are You seems to have made it into the fest as a favor to Riccardo’s father, acclaimed Italian cinematographer Dante Spinotti, who was attending this year as a lifetime honoree receiving the Pardo Alla Carriera award. One of the great contemporary cinematographers, the senior Spinotti is probably best known for his work with Michael Mann — though more contemporary times have found him working alongside Brett Ratner and Marvel Studios (also, more intriguingly, Deon Taylor). Regardless, Dante Spinotti is certainly an artist deserving of such an honor, so it’s a shame that this occasion was tainted by the inclusion of Where Are You, a film that he did indeed produce and shoot, a fact that it’s surely best not to highlight so publicly.

Granted, this seemed like the fate Where Are You was bound for when it failed to catch on at smaller fests in 2019/2020. Then titled Now Is Everything (still listed as a separate film on IMDb), the film played the Torino Film Festival and the Tallin Black Nights Festival (an interview where Dante defended Marvel movies against Scorsese’s “theme park” comments accounted for the bulk of the film’s press there), before vanishing from the circuit. Its convenient, post-pandemic retitling is hard not to perceive cynically, especially as the film itself scans as totally insincere: a trite, hollow story of celebrity ennui, half-heartedly abstracted by faux-Malick cinematography and bad jumpy editing provided by the film’s producers. With these elements in mind, one can probably understand that Where Are You is biting a lot from Knight of Cups, though unlike that film, this one is totally wrapped up into the superficiality it thinks it’s critiquing. Baiting festival goers and film buyers alike with a performance from Spinotti family friend Anthony Hopkins, the famed thespian inevitably appears on screen at the film’s one-hour mark for about three minutes — black and white footage of him writing at a desk and saying the film’s title bookend the narrative, insinuating a framing device that goes unmentioned otherwise — during which he’s forced to act off of Irakli Kvirikadze, the film’s blank, sneering lead. 

In Kvirikadze’s defense: this is basically what’s required of him in the role of a world famous photographer with a best-selling coffee table book (seriously) that’s brought him wealth, attention, and dissatisfaction. The film hops around between antagonistic interviews with an envious arts journalist and pained, faux-sensual flings with a cast of similar looking models. As it goes with these types of narratives, there’s an expectation that the audience will find something stirring in the contrast between outer beauty and inner turmoil, but this is of course a cliché, and one that requires an artistry not present in this production to justly render. The introduction of a metaphysical mystery element late in the movie seems like it should fix things, but only makes proceedings more unbearable, introducing an unearned pretension to the proceedings, pushing the film from unpleasant to laughable (posters for Contempt and Blow Up prominently positioned in key shots tell you where the filmmakers’ heads are at). A pure act of nepotism (Sting’s daughter and Jack Nicholson’s son also have roles), Where Are You is a flimsy film with bad ideas, embodying precisely what it aims to condemn.

Published as part of Locarno Film Festival 2021 — Dispatch 2.