(NR) 3 stars

(NR) 3 stars
If you can make it past the first 15 minutes of 94-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira"s I"m Going Home (Je Rentre ý la Maison), there"s plenty to enjoy about this inscrutable little film, de Oliveira"s 35th feature. But even for me - and I quite like quiet films where not much happens - that was a big "if." I"m Going Home opens with a performance of the last act of Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco"s Exit the King, starring legendary French actors Michel Piccoli (playing the character of equally legendary French actor Gilbert Valance) and Catherine Deneuve. Ionesco"s plays are obtuse at the best of times, and some of the lines Piccoli and Deneuve speak seem impossibly contrived. At this point, any sane audience member is thinking to him- or herself, "What have I gotten myself into this time? I should have just gone to the multiplex." But things get interesting after the actors take their final bows, when Gilbert is notified that his wife, daughter and son-in-law have just been killed in a car crash. Gilbert suddenly finds himself the primary guardian of his young grandson, Serge, but otherwise, his life maintains its unyielding daily routine: He reads the same paper at the same table at the same cafÈ every day, meets with his lecherous agent to refuse offers for roles in absurd made-for-TV movies and then wanders the streets of Paris late into the night. The film"s first big laugh occurs when Gilbert decides to vary his routine, thus also interrupting the habits of another old man who takes command of Gilbert"s table like clockwork each day, as soon as he relinquishes it. In I"m Going Home, the act of going home becomes a metaphor for death, and fittingly, the film"s best scenes occur at home, when Serge wakes Gilbert up in the morning before going off to school, and races remote control cars with him at night. After starring in a production of The Tempest, Gilbert is unexpectedly offered a part in a terrible film adaptation of Ulysses directed by John Malkovich. Delivering his lines in faltering English, Gilbert is humiliated, and announces, in the middle of a take, "I"m going home." In a potent final scene, Gilbert trudges wearily through Paris, still in his period costume, muttering his lines. Upon reaching home, Gilbert climbs the stairs to his bedroom, as if for the last time, as Serge watches wordlessly from below. This careful meditation on death from two elderly, yet still virile masters of European art cinema, demands patience from viewers, and rewards it handsomely. At Key Cinemas for one week only.

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