This new film stands out from the crowd for the official competition and is an achievement that lingers for a long time. It should encourage young filmmakers to do something different, not something that has been done again and again – with their cameras, dialogue, editing and sound.
Gallo shows what new language in cinema can be about. Several of the scenes in the film should become a part of contemporary cinematic history. Primarily of great interest is the use of the camera, in the most amazing closeups that go beyond how Hollywood uses these. Perhaps silent film closeups have more in common with these shots. These are mega closeups, and executed beautifully by cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi. The body as landscape is part of his introspection.
The narrative is a loose yet visibly connected conception about Kevin (Vincent Gallo) who sees an ad for an apprentice funeral parlor director. He gets the job. The Japanese film Departures by Yôjirô Takita comes to mind but Promises Written in Water is nothing like this film in terms of style.
Belgian actress Delfine Bafort is Kevin’s new girlfriend Mallory. She wants to die, and she doesn’t want it to hurt. You forget about that in the course of the film while Kevin attends to a dead young girl and her grieving parents and a middle aged woman who wants him to sit next to her in the crypt and hold her hand.
Kevin has Mallory dance at one point and the soundtrack rages as does the wild dance.
Sound has up until now been extremely low key with dialogue that is repetitive, with music by Gallo. This dialogue features the same sentences repeated three or four times. Kevin has called his girlfriend, she still loves him most of all, but has a 55 year old lover in Thailand. Or is it Taiwan? When Mallory calls this girlfriend, Kevin flies into a rage.
Vincent Gallo seems always under pressure, he smokes under pressure and paces the floor under pressure. The Italians love Vincent Gallo.
Kevin has left the mob behind, and is able to stand up to a Mafiosa played by Sage Stallone. He is seemingly into his new job at the funeral parlor. Or is it to fulfill Mallory’s wish of dying without pain. And the Mafiosa lets him off the hook. No more jobs.
Quentin Tarantino came to the public screening and festival director Marco Mueller. This does not usually happen. It is possible if innovation and command of something that is very different from almost anything in the competition majorly counts, that Vincent Gallo could win the Golden Lion. The audience was in awe, and the applause forced Delfine Bafort in a golden full length gown to stand where she was applauded for a good five minutes.
Vincent Gallo was not present, and the press conference for his film was cancelled.