A satiric clash of cultures is the focus of attention in Alain Resnais' absurd but conspicuously revealing I Want To Go Home. Winner of multiple awards at the Venice Film Festival in 1989, including Best Film and Best Screenplay, pic also addresses traditionalism, relationships, and the importance of art as a universal medium.
An aging cartoonist from Cleveland (Singing in the Rain's Adolph Green) arrives in Paris for a gala show set to promote his work. The man also hopes to mend his relationship with his daughter (Laura Benson) who has relocated to France. Unfortunately, the cartoonist is faced with nothing but disappointments along the way including a bitter realization that his daughter is more impressed by an esteem French intellectual (Gerard Depardieu) than his attempts to reconcile with her.
Following a marquee for Resnais route, fractured storytelling with rich and conflicting characters, I Want To Go Home surprises with its stripped of literary references dialog. Here, the lines used by the actors are straightforward and to the point, typically something Resnais' work avoids.
The main protagonists are also notably transparent. They move, act, and express thoughts one would be hard-pressed in attaching to Resnais' favored intellectual extravagancy. The humor pervading the script of I want To Go Home is far more mainstream than anyone familiar with the French director's body of work would expect.
Yet, the commanding feel here is that under the surface of this mellow satire there is a great deal of specific references to cultural clichés that are anything but easy to swallow. Whether one chooses to see this film from an American perspective and decry its razor-sharp humor or analyze its message from French perspective for its "traditional" look at the disharmony between the two cultures I Want To Go Home proves to be a comedy with an edge, one that actually cuts both ways.
In the grand scheme of things however the film is hardly as engaging and as provocative as Resnais' earlier work (Last Year at Marienbad). Once the final credits roll there simply isn't anything that would force one into contemplation, overanalyzing the actions and words of the main protagonists, as Resnais filming style is known for. Still, the cultural hardship, shock would be an inappropriate term to use, the American cartoonist endures in Paris does tend to keep one's attention throughout even if at the end I Want To Go Home does not surprise with a unique finale.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and enhanced for widescreen TVs this release by KINO appears to have followed exactly the same route the rest of the three Resnais films released this month have: it has been sourced improperly from the French MK2 set. Aside from the obvious "ghosting" here the quality of the print is rather strong - colors are accurate, contrast is acceptable but not great, and damage is not an issue. There is a bit of digital noise which I was able to spot in selected scenes but overall this print is practically identical to the French one sans of course the side effects due to the faulty conversion.
How Does the DVD Sound?
A French DD track with optional English subtitles is what this disc offers. The music, an integral part of the film, comes off the speakers quite nicely and I did not detect any issues to report here. Dialog is very easy to follow and clean.
Aside from the original theatrical trailer this disc offers one of the best bits of supplemental material found on the French set - an interview with Marin Karmitz, producer of this film, and founder of MK2. While the interview isn't long enough to address Resnais style and thoughts in depth there is a great deal of information pertaining to the history of this work, what were the priorities in this story, to what extent the cultural clichés addressed are to be considered as comedy, or drama.
It has been a long time since I last saw this film. It now looks rather dated and more than a few of the controversial points Resnais makes appear innocuous. Nevertheless, I Want To Go Home is one of his least challenging works and could be a good pick if in a mood to explore his conventional side.