Martin is a quiet Frenchman who gets a devastating phone call telling him that his mother has died. In shock, or more of a 'walking shock,' he tells his girlfriend Claire (Chiara Mastroianni) that he has to leave and see to his mother's affairs. Martin stops by his estranged father's place to tell him about the death, which he quickly states that Martin should be the one to travel to Los Angeles to settle her estate. Linda (Geraldine Chaplin), a close friend of Martin's mother will meet him in Los Angeles.
When Martin arrives in Los Angeles the memories of his mother and his childhood hit him like a ton of bricks. Martin loved his mother, but his mother was a bit of a free spirit who did her own thing and sort neglected him at various times. As we see Martin walking the old neighborhood of Venice, we're taken back to his childhood via flashbacks that piece together the days of his youth. He has a conversation with the now old writer who helped him out as a kid and now sits by the window typing away.
Things escalate a bit when Martin is given a picture that has a young girl in it named Lola. Lola and Martin were friends growing up, but they lost touch when Martin moved to France to live with his father. Lola remained close with Martin's daughter through the long years. Very close that she is mentioned in her will. She has bequeathed her apartment to Lola unbeknownst to Linda or Martin. Martin is hardly fazed at all but Linda lets out a bit of a shit fit. Martin gets to keep all of the belongings in the garage, though.
Martin begins the long and arduous task of locating Lola in Los Angeles, which is a bit of a drive from Venice. Martin's journey does not yield results, but Lola's friends point him into the right direction. Next stop: Tijuana, Mexico. Martin takes the cherry red 1966 convertible Mustang Linda let him borrow to try and find Lola once and for all. Tijuana is cool and all, but Mr. Martin is way out of his element. All he has is an address but he doesn't know where he's going until a sympathetic street kid leads him down the right path. Once he gets to his destination things get a bit intense.
Lola (Salma Hayek) is the star of the dancer's stage and the crown jewel of the club. Martin just wants to sit down and talk, but she won't let him, so there will be games to be played. All he wants to do is settle things between her and his mother. She doesn't want to here about it and just wants to bleed Martin dry - literally and figuratively.
I'm a really big fan of the French and American 'new wave' of films and Americano is a blend of both. Mathieu Demy is son of director Jacques Demy and his mother is Agnes Varda. With parents like that, you'd think that there'd be something there. And there is. Mathieu Demy crafts a hybrid new wave of a film - sure some scenes are not flattering, but neither are the scenes that take place in Tijuana, Mexico. What is evident is the way the film is shot. I was reminded of Goddard a bit especially the scenes shot in Tijuana. You can sometimes see people standing there looking at the camera not really knowing what was going as our main characters walk and talk at the same time. Two actors, a cameraman, soundman, and that's it. It's guerilla filmmaking, without the permits, crowd control, or studio extras. I liked that aspect of the film.
Now what I didn't really care for was Martin himself. He hardly ever speaks and when he does it's in a very passive aggressive manner. Dude obviously has mommy and daddy issues, but the fact that he keeps it all bottled in gets irritating. I almost thought it would be a deal breaker, but good thing I was captivated by the story and settings in general. Hey, Salma Hayek ain't chopped liver neither. We're treated to a sexy dance number that doesn't quite match From Dusk Till Dawn's snake dance, but leaves her a little less clothed than that previous dance. I marvel at her pushing 50 years of age.
Overall, Americano is the story of one man's journey to find himself, settle his affairs with his family, and to grow as a human being while not alienating those that actually want to be around him. See it for the style, stay for the dance. Drool.
Americano will be available on Blu-ray and DVD October 30th.
Americano is presented in 1080p, 2.35:1 widescreen. Right off the bat you're going to notice that Americano is very grainy. It's intentional and used for aesthetic purposes. It was shot in Super 16-Cinemascope. This was done on purpose, because as I mentioned before, director Remy, used footage of a film that he was in when he was a child and inserted into Americano's flashback sequences. It meshes incredibly well with the current used. That's the reason why Americano was shot in 16 mm. With that being said, grain is on the heavy side, but gives it that great visual aesthetic throughout. Flesh tones appear less saturated, but are detailed. Colors are not as bright and bold as I would have thought, but that quickly changes once we're inside the 'Americano' club. The smoke, neon, wigs, costumes, etc., all come through brilliantly. No banding was detected, but edge enhancement and a bit of aliasing is present here and there. Nothing major. I really like the way Americano looks on Blu-ray.
Americano is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1, with English subtitles. It's a tri-lingual film - English, Spanish, and French are the languages of choice. It's a pretty quiet movie overall, picking up once we get to Tijuana. Dialogue is clean, and all three languages were picked up without any harshness or trebling artifacts. It's a smooth track. The LFE picks up the pace once inside the club as the many tunes on display have that extra bump in the low end. Ambient sounds are very subdued, but pick up while characters walk the streets as the streets in Mexico are very lively and there's constant chatter all around. Americano sounds terrific.
Americano only has two special features: an interview with Actor/Writer/Director: Mathieu Demy and a theatrical trailer. The interview is actually very informative and runs just under 10-minutes.
- Interview with Mathieu Demy
Our main character is a bit of an ass and has plenty of emotional issues, which make it really hard to identify with him, but the supporting cast, writing, and direction more than make up for Martin's shortcomings. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, but the special features are lacking. If you're a fan of new wave (French and otherwise) style then Americano is right up your alley.