2017 Hot Docs ‘The Last Resort’

The Last Resort (2016), co-directed by Thanos Anastopoulos and Davide Del Degan, is a visual memoir of an unusual public beach. It has a concrete wall that separates the sexes; men on the one side and women on the other. The municipally run, pebble-stone beach is located on the waterfront in downtown Trieste, a northern Italian port city on the Adriatic Sea, very near the borders of Slovenia and Croatia. It is open year round, and is popular with its inhabitants in particular the elderly. The beach provides them with public access to the sea and a place to relax, sunbath, and take a dip. There is an admission fee to enter and there are some amenities.Although not directly stated, the film poses many interesting questions about the wall. Why is it still up? Why hasn’t it been torn down? What insights does it offer up?

The directors weave together many visual elements to create a fascinating and insightful film about a public institution albeit a public beach. Close ups and medium angles shots of the beachgoers and the personnel of the public beach including the caretakers, the lifeguards, and the barista are interspersed with wide angle shots of the beach. Scenes alternate between the men’s side and the women’s side. The film incorporates footage shot over several seasons, shot at different times of the day, underwater footage of the sea, and found footage including a newscast of military personnel mapping out territory and an excerpt from a film about some interesting facts about Trieste after the Second World War. All of these elements give the film a complexity and richness. Snippets of conversations of the beachgoers who mostly reminisce but sometimes engage in heated exchanges run as a motif throughout the film.

I enjoyed The Last Resort for it documents a slice of life in an unusual city and shines a light on the diversity of the group who visit and make use of the public space. They are young and old, people of diverse ethnicities, and who speak various languages including Italian, the local Trieste dialect, Slovenian, Croatian and Serbian. I also like the relaxed pace of the film reflecting a characteristic of the public space. I particularly loved the footage of the much loved resident cat who has staked out the men’s side of the beach as his adobe.

The directors have succeeded in creating an intimate portrait of a most unusual public space and it is a testament to the importance of public institutions which serve a useful purpose in creating shared experiences and bringing people together. Although the wall is a legacy of a bygone era which reflected sexist attitudes about gender, no one seems to really mind or feel put out. In fact, the men and women seem to bask and enjoy the freedom the separation affords them. In the end, I doubt anything will be ever done about the wall unless the area is slated for re-development and the inhabitants of Trieste lose their beloved public beach.

The Last Resort will be playing at various theatres:
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 on April 28 @ 3:15 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 on April 29 @ 3:15 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased here!

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