Richard AllevaSeptember 22, 2008 - 2:03pm0 comments
David Kepesh, the hero of Elegy, Isabel Coixet’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal, is on a long sabbatical from intimacy. A professor and minor literary star in New York, he’s estranged from his son, the only child of a marriage that ended in a bitter divorce. He deems his more attractive female students fair game, but in-season only after final exams. Once Kepesh sleeps with the desired one, it’s Cole Porter time again: “No strings and no connections / No ties to my affections...”
But then David (Ben Kingsley) meets Consuela (Penélope Cruz), the beautiful daughter of exiles from Castro’s Cuba. Though living on her own and free to enjoy Manhattan’s treats, Consuela has the inner restraint and aristocratic carriage of a lady in a Velásquez portrait. It’s as if she had an invisible dueña by her side; in fact, she is her own dueña. That really turns Kepesh on, and he settles for some long-term wooing. But even after he’s been sexually satisfied, he can’t break away. Not sex alone but the force of Consuela’s emotions has subjugated him, and this is a catastrophe for the old satyr. He wants her to be his forever, but her forever may last forty or fifty years. His will be...rather shorter. Her tenderness has made him terribly aware that he is a dying animal.
Isabel Coixet’s great strength as a director is her tactile rendering of passionate sex. She...