Cinema Review: This Must Be the Place

Droopy Plays Guitar

DIR: Paolo Sorrentino • WRI: Umberto Contarello, Paolo Sorrentino • PRO: Francesca Cima, Nicola Giuliano, Andrea Occhipinti, Mario Spedaletti • DOP: Luca Bigazzi • ED: Cristiano Travaglioli • DES: Stefania Cella • Cast: Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Eve Hewson

Over the last 10 years Paolo Sorrentino has emerged as one of the greatest of a new generation of European filmmakers. Through films such as The Consequences of Love and his political biopic, and opus, Il Divo, he has proven himself a master of stylish editing and perhaps the finest conjurer of perfectly framed imagery currently in the business.

Because of the praise hurled at him at Cannes and elsewhere, the pressure is on Sorrentino now with his new film This Must Be the Place, his English-language debut. And while it may not be the film that many hoped for, it is, unquestionably, a Sorrentino picture.

The new film stars Sean Penn (who practically demanded Sorrentino cast him in his next project after seeing Il Divo at Cannes in 2008) as an aging former rockstar, hiding from life and responsibilities in Dublin. Cheyenne, equal measures Boy George and The Cure’s Robert Smith, is a man living in the past; he still dresses as he did in his heyday, refusing to grow up, spending his time with friends half his age (if not literally, then emotionally stilted like himself). His character is complex, simultaneously wise and childlike, unable to take responsibility in his own life yet too eager to take it in the lives of others.

Like Hugh Grant’s character in About a Boy, Cheyenne lives off royalties and does next to nothing with his days. His identity crisis is compounded when his elderly father falls ill, and he must return to the US for the first time in decades to face his past. But it is his father’s past he must come to terms with, as he becomes the heir to his father’s lifelong search – to find the man who terrorised him at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. The film takes a wide turn as Cheyenne treks across America in search of this ancient Nazi, finding an idea of himself along the way.

The story of the film is troubled; plot threads in the film’s first (Irish) act are abandoned as the action moves Stateside, and the Nazi-hunting aim feels tacked on, Sorrentino doesn’t seem to care for this in the same way he does about Cheyenne, or feel the same anger he did over the political corruption on display in Il Divo. But that aside, this is a masterful production. Sorrentino’s use of evocative editing, punchy and unexpected musical cues and breathtaking, sometimes puzzling imagery leaves the likes of Drive’s Nicolas Winding Refn in his dust.

From the moment the camera pans down the glacial facade of Dublin’s Aviva Stadium into the relative squalor of a grey Sandymount cul-de-sac, you know you’re in for a visual treat. Sorrentino may be the first filmmaker to find real beauty in modern Dublin. Similarly, his wide, endless shots of American Midwest reveal wonders the likes of which have not been caught on camera since Wim Wenders made Paris, Texas.

There are plenty of delights to be found throughout Cheyenne’s strange odyssey. Kitsch Americana abounds. The strangest of strangers are met, calling to mind the films of the Coen Brothers, littered with their brief, memorable eccentrics. Talking Heads legend David Byrne shows up to dispense advice to Cheyenne and unleash a hypnotic performance of the film’s title track. Harry Dean Stanton, another link to Paris, Texas, appears as a man who claims to have invented the wheeled suitcase.

Frances McDormand puts in a fine performance as Cheyenne’s devoted wife, but with so much of the musician’s history left unexplained, it’s hard to not feel like we’re missing something required to fully understand their relationship. Admirable support is offered up by Judd Hirsch and Kerry Condon, but this is really Sean Penn’s moment in the sun. Playing a character so utterly against type that most of his previous characters would probably want him dead, Penn conjures something familiar and yet confusingly new. He delivers profound, witty, lively comments from the mouth of this zombified goth, and brings surprising depth to a character who borders so precariously on parody.

While the film’s abandoning of its Irish storyline reeks of a bid for tax breaks, there’s no denying a wonderful work of art has been produced here. Sadly, it is not entirely a satisfying one, and the film’s concluding on a number of overly puzzling sequences leaves a sour taste in the mouth unbecoming of what has gone before.

While not the director’s finest work, it is still a noteworthy film, and should launch him swiftly on the international market, while reigniting the career of its star.

David Neary

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
This Must Be the Place is released on 23rd March 2012


Film Stars Find Their ‘Place’ at Fingal Film Festival

The organisers behind a new Fingal-based film festival, which opens with Sean Penn’s new film partially shot in Fingal, have announced that IFTA Award Winner Martin McCann is giving a masterclass for budding actors during the three day festival.


The inaugural Fingal Film Festival, which takes place from March 21st to 23rd, is hosting the Gala Opening Screening of This Must Be The Place, starring Sean Penn and the young Irish actress, Eve Hewson at UCI Cinema Blanchardstown on Wednesday 21st March.


All films will be screened in UCI Cinema Blanchardstown with Masterclasses and Q&A Screenings taking pace at Draíocht at the Blanchardstown Centre.


The Crowne Plaza in Blanchardstown will also host the Festivals Production offices for the week of the festival along with some of the Masterclasses, whilst offering discounted rates for people who need accommodation during the event.


During the three days, the festival will host masterclasses by leading industry names, including BAFTA Winner Aisling Walsh, writer/director of Song for A Raggy Boy,  Arthur Lappin, film producer. The festival is also delighted to announce that IFTA Award winner Martin McCann will host the actor’s masterclass. Martin is known for his role as ‘Bono’ in the film Killing Bono and also Phaedrus in the 2010 remake of the Clash of the Titans and also starring in the new HBO series The Pacific.


Other industry experts include, Emmy Nominated film composer Joseph Conlon,  and internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker Sylvia Stevens. There will also be another surprise guest giving masterclasses to be announced in the coming weeks.


Offering a platform for filmmaking talent, the festival invited submissions nationally and internationally, and received an unprecedented numbers of entries including many international submissions from countries such as Brazil, Korea, Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain and from all over Ireland.


A shortlist of films will be honoured in an Awards Ceremony, hosted by comedian Eddie Naessens, which will take place on Friday 23rd March at the Wright Venue in Swords.  A number of awards will be presented on the night including ‘Best Documentary’, ‘Best Feature Film’ and ‘Best International Film’, Best Animation Film’, as well as a special award for the ‘Best Newcomer Writer & Director in Fingal’ award.  The awards night will also see The Young Folk performing, supported by new emerging Fingal Band Machine Gun Baby.


The managing director of the festival, Liz Kenny, explains: ‘The Fingal Film Festival will showcase work produced by gifted filmmakers from across Ireland and internationally. It will also put a spotlight on the burgeoning talents in the Fingal area. This is an ideal opportunity for anyone interested to learn and enhance their skills through the workshops or by coming simply to see the films that other people are making on the big screen.’


The festivals creative director Dave Byrne said this week, ‘the films submitted into the festival for consideration were comedic, heart-warming and thought provoking beautifully directed pieces of work. Selecting the finalists’ films was extremely difficult and not all films made the final selection due to the number of days allocated for the screenings during the festival.’


Dave also explains, ‘it is the aim of the organisers to bring on board next year a corporate sponsor, which will enable them to extend the festivals schedule and give more emerging filmmakers the platform to screen their work and also meet with funding bodies and distribution agents.’


The Fingal Film Festival opens with the Gala Opening Screening Night of This Must Be the Place on Wednesday 21st March at UCI Cinema Blanchardstown and ends on Friday 23rd March 2012.   Full details on screenings and tickets for the Fingal Film Festival can be found on There are limited tickets available for the Gala and the Award night, so you must book early to secure a place. Tickets can be purchased on


Sponsored by UCI Blanchardstown, the Fingal Film Festival is also being sponsored by SNAP Blanchardstown, Lispopple Studios and Sweet! Graphic & Web Studio.


The Festival in conjunction with IFTN has also been offered great support by Trophy World Tralee, Blanchardstown Centre, Crowne Plaza Blanchardstown, Fingal County Council, WrightVenue, Film Ireland, Film Base, OnScreen Solution, Fingal Tourism and Chauffeur Services Ireland.


Smattering of Green amongst Guardian's 50 Oscar® Tips

(Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire)

With only five months left until Christmas it can only mean about six and a half months until those winning names are read out at the Kodak Theatre at the 2012 Academy Awards.

This week The Guardian have picked out 50 films that may be up for consideration next year and there are a few with an Irish interest, let’s a take a look at our best chances at hearing ‘Tá an athas orm’ being bellowed from the stage next February.

#25 Shame

Everyone’s favourite German Kerryman Michael Fassbender reunites with Hunger director Steve McQueen in a film about a man unable to control his sex life.

‘Brandon (Michael Fassbender, Inglourious Basterds, Hunger, A Dangerous Method) is a 30-something man living in New York who is unable to manage his sex life. After his wayward younger sister moves into his apartment, Brandon’s world spirals out of control.

From director Steve McQueen (Hunger), Shame is a compelling and timely examination of the nature of need, how we live our lives and the experiences that shape us.’

To read more click here

#34 Jane Eyre

Michael Fassbender stars as Mr Rochester opposite Mia Wasikowska in this adaptation directed by Cary Fukunaga.

‘Based on Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, the romantic drama stars Mia Wasikowska (“Alice in Wonderland”) and Michael Fassbender (“Inglourious Basterds”) in the lead roles. In the story, Jane Eyre flees Thornfield House, where she works as a governess for wealthy Edward Rochester. The isolated and imposing residence – and Mr. Rochester’s coldness – have sorely tested the young woman’s resilience, forged years earlier when she was orphaned. As Jane reflects upon her past and recovers her natural curiosity, she will return to Mr. Rochester – and the terrible secret that he is hiding…’

To read more click here

#35 Haywire

Starring Michael Fassbender and also partly shot in Ireland this thriller is directed by Steven Soderbergh.

‘Mallory Kane is a highly trained operative who works for a government security contractor in the dirtiest, most dangerous corners of the world. After successfully freeing a Chinese journalist held hostage, she is double crossed and left for dead by someone close to her in her own agency. Suddenly the target of skilled assassins who know her every move, Mallory must find the truth in order to stay alive.

Using her black-ops military training, she devises an ingenious—and dangerous—trap. But when things go haywire, Mallory realizes she’ll be killed in the blink of an eye unless she finds a way to turn the tables on her ruthless adversary.’

To read more click here

Keep a (very) close eye on the trailer for familiar buildings.

#48 This Must Be The Place

Can Element Films, currently riding high at the Irish box office with The Guard, don the tuxedos and gowns next year?

‘Cheyenne is a former rock star.

At 50 he still dresses “Goth” and lives in Dublin off his royalties.

The death of his father, with whom he wasn’t on speaking terms, brings him back to New York.

He discovers his father had an obsession: to seek revenge for a humiliation he had suffered.

Cheyenne decides to pick up where his father left off, and starts a journey, at his own pace, across America.’

To read more click here

Plenty of quality there, and a busy Michael Fassbender appearing in three films, check out the other 46 rivals here