Welcome to the wild and wintry world of faded pop sensation Richie Bravo.
Held together with hair lacquer and a corset, and fuelled by copious amounts of booze, ageing syrupy ballad singer Richie Bravo earns a crust warbling to pensioner audiences at the out of season resort of Rimini in Italy, in Austrian director Ulrich Seidl’s Golden-bear nominated black comedy RIMINI (released in UK cinemas from Friday 9th December).
Bravo, the weird and wonderful main character is played by Austrian actor Michael Thomas, summoning up the end-of-days Elvis, Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, and the sort of down-at-heel yet loveable characters so often played by Gerard Depardieu. “Richie considers himself someone who gifts dreams to people,” says director Seidl.
Frequently indulging in some outrageously explicit encounters with his groupies – lonely ladies hoping a bit of Richie’s stardust will rub off on them – he must also contend with his estranged daughter, who is demanding cash from the often-broke singer in lieu of his parental affections, as well as keep his sparse audiences entertained and his houseguests happy (he’s rented out his memorabilia crammed house).
Bravo a superb creation, from the minds of uniquely talented husband and wife team of Seidl (Import Export) and co-writer Veronika Franz (co-writer/director of The Lodge and Goodnight Mommy). In , Seidl’s directorial gaze is as unflinching and provocative as ever. “Audiences are drawn in and confronted with themselves,” he suggests.
The director of the acclaimed Paradise trilogy – Love, Faith, Hope, centring on the lives of three different women (which won awards at the Venice FIlm festival and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes ), Seidl has a knack, with his semi-documentary style, of getting close to his subjects and being able to dissect the human psyche. And what better place to do that in this instance than in the unforgiving snow swept landscape of a out of season seaside resort of Rimini. “A deserted place like that has a special power,” says Seidl of this evocative location.
The film is beautifully shot by Wolfgang Thaler, capturing the cold winter landscape of the near deserted coastal town, with beach huts battered by torrential rain or palm trees frosted with snow. It’s a far cry from the summer months, when Rimini is bustling with crowds, the beaches packed full, and the promenades alive with colour, bronzed bodies splashing in the warm Adriatic waters.
In the film the town works as a beautiful metaphor for the position Bravo finds himself in – no longer in the summer of his life, and the crowds have moved on. For director Seidl, there is a real beauty in the town during the winter months: “The melancholy aspect prompts different thoughts… I find a foggy atmosphere far more profound.”
A contemplative, stark locale, with tantalising glimpses of glorious summers gone by, Bravo, and Seidl, seem strangely at home there. By the end of the film you warm to Bravo, and his predicament, despite the characters best efforts to make you feel otherwise! Seidl’s latest film, Sparta, is a follow-up to RIMINI, this time focusing on Richie Bravo’s brother. Forget the multiverse – welcome to the Bravo-verse!
Rimini is in UK cinemas from today 9th December.