Elegy (15)

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The Independent Culture

Elegy is adapted from a Philip Roth novel, The Dying Animal, so it's no surprise that it features an ageing academic getting between the sheets with a much younger woman. The ageing academic is Ben Kingsley, a minor New York celebrity who lives according to his anti-puritan philosophy of "sexual happiness". He walked out on his wife and son (Peter Sarsgaard) decades ago, and now all his relationships with the opposite sex are no-strings flings with former students. But his independence comes under threat when he seduces a Cuban ex-student, Penelope Cruz, and is so smitten by her "elegant austerity" that he feels heart-wrenching love for the first time in his life.

That's what he tells us in his voice-over. But Kingsley acts as if Cruz is nothing more than an artwork he's studying, and Cruz acts as if, sure enough, she's nothing more than an artwork being studied. There's some chemistry between Kingsley and best buddy Dennis Hopper, but when it comes to Kingsley and Cruz, "elegant austerity" seems to have been the director's mantra. With its melancholy soundtrack and epigrammatic dialogue, Elegy ponders passion and regret with some sophistication. But what does sophistication have to do with passion and regret?

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