An under-appreciated oddball of a film by Alain Resnais that dabbles with US-French cultural idiosyncrasies as well as the tension between popular culture and intellectual scholarship.
Dir. Alain Resnais
1989 | France | Drama/Comedy | 100 mins | 1.66:1 | French & English
Not rated – likely to be PG13 for some sexual references
Cast: Adolph Green, Gerard Depardieu, Laura Benson, Linda Lavin, Geraldine Chaplin
Plot: Joey Wellman, a cantankerous American cartoonist, accepts an invitation to come to an exhibition in Paris, because his estranged daughter Elsie is a student there. He arrives with his girlfriend Lena, and very soon wants to go home as the culture shock is too much for him.
Awards: Won Best Screenplay, Pasinetti Award & Golden Ciak (Venice)
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
There seems to be nothing much going on in Alain Resnais’ I Want to Go Home, which happens to be one of his more bizarre films and still not very well appreciated today, nor in its time (though it did nab several awards including Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival).
It is an oddball of a picture, centering on a grumpy American old man who is invited to Paris to be present for an exhibition where his works (cartoon drawings) are bemusedly the subject of intellectual fascination and discourse.
But truth be told, Joey Wellman is there to visit his estranged daughter, Elsie, who feels her intellectual, philosophical pursuits dwarf her father’s lowly ‘art’.
‘Grumpy old man’ is probably an understatement, as you will find him to be annoying as hell. Adolph Green’s performance as Joey is surely a mixed bag—one might find his portrayal an intended caricature of sorts, yet it does also feel a turn-off at times.
That pretty much sums up Resnais’ work here, where his tonal grasp seems a bit off, but the entire film is like that as it plays around with the tensions between US-French cultural idiosyncrasies, as well as that of popular culture and intellectual scholarship.
Cartoon drawings pop up like speech bubbles to become visual-verbal manifestations of Elsie’s inner thoughts, a subconscious reminder of her father’s overbearing presence. There’s comedy in I Want to Go Home, though it doesn’t always hit the target.
For Resnais’ completists, this under-appreciated work remains an enigma and worth seeing just for its narrative and tonal peculiarities. But it also surely warrants more than just a footnote in the French filmmaker’s illustrious career.