A C.I.A. operative pulls strings in hopes of tying up personal loose ends in peculiar caper. Visually engaging but narratively schizo helming debut by vet scripter Santiago Amigorena is a love-it-or-hate-it European art movie about a father's shot at redemption and America's intrusive hold on the collective planetary imagination.
A C.I.A. operative pulls strings in hopes of tying up personal loose ends in “A Few Days in September.” Peculiar caper, set in Paris and Venice from Sept. 5-10, 2001, intrigues by virtue of its cast and premise but — at least for native English-speakers — is marbled with conceptual clunkiness verging, in places, on laughable. Visually engaging but narratively schizo helming debut by vet scripter Santiago Amigorena is a love-it-or-hate-it European art movie about a father’s shot at redemption and America’s intrusive hold on the collective planetary imagination. Sept. 6 release in Gaul is in Venice fest line-up.Irene (Juliette Binoche), a French Secret Service vet, hasn’t heard from former espionage colleague Elliot (Nick Nolte) for 10 years when he contacts her out of the blue to fetch his daughter Orlando (Sara Forestier) for him. Lass was only 12 when her dad was summoned back to the U.S. for an identity change after his French wife’s death. U.S.-hating Orlando, who raises geese in a small French town, sullenly accompanies Irene to a Paris hotel room where the dad she hasn’t seen for a decade has promised to meet them. That night the ratty hotel is suddenly very popular. All-American lad David (Tom Riley) arrives in search of his step-father, Nolte, whom he knows only by his new identity. The real fun starts when one William Pound (John Turturro) asks for the room. Turturro narrowly avoids self-parody as an unhinged multi-lingual U.S. government agent who spouts poetry between lethal hits. He’s so trigger happy and acts with such impunity that one wonders if every cop in Western Europe is on an extended coffee break. Pound, who calls his French shrink to announce “I just killed somebody” or to boost his wobbly self-esteem, worked closely with Elliot 10 years ago. Also extremely keen on meeting with Elliot are two sinister bankers (Mathieu Demy, Said Amadis). Dialogue alternately leaves matters vague or spells them out to excess, with Irene toggling back and forth between her hard-as-nails spy persona and her girlishly naive cover act while she baby-sits the half-siblings. Elliot keeps putting off the rendezvous with his two kids, finally arranging to be in Venice on Sept. 10 by way of Afghanistan. While some may find Turturro’s perf a tour-de-force, he’s also in potential Razzie territory. Deliberately disjointed tale eventually comes together, but carries its out-of-focus metaphor through to Irene. She frequently removes her glasses — whereupon the screen goes fuzzy. Suggesting that prior knowledge of the Sept 11 terror attacks might have been used for financial gain may seem offensive to some, but gambit makes sense in the context presented.