movie review: L’Ultima Spiaggia (English title: The Last Resort)

spiaggia poster

(This review is part of a series related to my professional development project of attending the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.)

L’Ultima Spiaggia (English title: The Last Resort)
(Italy/Greece/France, 2016)
directed by Thanos Anastopoulos and Davide Del Degan

This is a charming documentary about Il Pedocino, a last-of-its-kind resort in sunny, beautiful Trieste. It is so old-fashioned that men and women have separate areas of the beach, partitioned off by a wall.

The filmmakers wisely allow the resort-goers to tell their own stories by acting as a fly on the wall: there are no interviews; rather, the (mostly elderly) holidaymakers sun themselves, go in the water, spoil the resident cat with treats, laugh, sing, and have conversations with each other–often about how the resort has changed over the decades. Of course, because the resort is in Trieste, the conversation inevitably turns to the disruption and chaos of WWII and the consequences for locals, which stands in contrast to the tranquility of the beach today.

Of course, not all is completely tranquil: human nature being what it is, there are minor skirmishes over territory and beach chairs. But overall, even the grumpiest beachgoer is ultimately soothed by the gorgeous surroundings and can be humoured into a singalong or card game.

Part of what makes this film so good is that one never quite knows what’s going to happen. Because it’s essentially ethnographic in nature, the crew simply follows the regulars over the course of the summer season. We see it as the staff open it; we witness the events of the summer, some unexpected; we see it as the season ends and the beach closes for another year.

The other reason it’s such a pleasurable experience for the audience is the sheer loveliness of the seaside setting. The camera lingers on the sky, the water, the beach, and the effect is delightful: it’s almost as though one is there along with the others, basking in the sunshine.

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