- Last Updated: 11:20 AM, June 15, 2012
- Posted: 10:29 PM, June 14, 2012
In English, French and Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 105 minutes. Not rated (nudity, profanity, violence). At the Landmark Sunshine, Houston Street and Second Avenue.
After he receives word in the opening of “Americano,” that his mother has died, Mathieu Demy’s boyish features flatten, like someone sandblasted by life. His character, Martin, travels from France to Los Angeles to arrange his mother’s affairs, which means confronting his long estrangement from her.
The film’s first half has a lovely feel for how bizarre California must seem to foreigners, and there’s a piercing sense of the stop-and-start ways that people deal with grief. Demy, making his debut as a director, is the son of French filmmakers Agnès Varda and Jacques Demy, and that legacy is woven into “Americano.”
Demy uses footage of Varda and himself from her 1981 movie “Documenteur” to show the memories colliding in Martin’s brain. There’s also a brilliantly high-strung Geraldine Chaplin — another child of a movie genius — playing the mother’s friend. Chaplin’s limbs flap around like the frayed ends of a very skinny rope, her every remark pushing well-meaning tactlessness to new heights.
Propelled by nostalgia and jealousy, Martin decides to find a Mexican woman who maintained a long relationship with his mother while he could not. When Martin finds Lola (Salma Hayek) in Tijuana, she’s become a stripper/prostitute, and “Americano” detours into a much more conventional affair.
Lola evidently pays tribute to the title role of Jacques Demy’s 1961 debut. But while Hayek isn’t bad, Lola is a stock character, and very little that transpires after her arrival recovers the interest so beautifully constructed in the beginning.