Editor’s Note: Barrie Pattison's earlier reports on the Italian Film Festival can be found if you click on the following film titles After the War, I Can Quit Whenever I Want to: Masterclass, Let Yourself Go, Messy Christmas, Stories of Love that cannot Belong to this World, These Days & Sicilian Ghost Story and From Naples with Love & Ignorance is Bliss
Fortunata (Sergio Castellito, Italy, 2017)
Director Sergio Castellitto is determined to jam everything into Fortunata - mother love, abusive husband, police brutality, kids’ birthday parties, Chairman Mao, drug use, burka women, racial slurs, loan sharks, a raunchy make out, a Chinese women’s synchronised tai chi routine in the rain and of course, being an Italian film, ‘vergonia’.
Castellito is an actor and his first loyalty is to his players who get to give bravura performances. Bleach-blonded Jasmine Trinca does the whole Anna Magnani thing as the beautician mother of young Nicole Centanni trying to keep custody despite the rough handling she gets from cop husband Edoardo Pesce. She also has to work it out with immigrant lover Tattooist Alessandro Borghi, who is helping build the salon where she can do heads without having to trundle all over the city.
Borghi’s life is further complicated by his dotty mother who no longer recognises him, a nice raddled turn by Hanna Schygulla. Some hope emerges when the child psychologist Centanni is referred to for spitting turns out to be simpatico Stefano Accorsi. His job is driving him spare. Accorsi's description of tracking down his deadbeat dad in Africa is one of the film’s highlights.
Schygulla’s presence prompts several nice visual touches. Borghi has the image of her, young and glamorous, inked on his shoulder and her floating umbrella is good movie short hand.
The film is effectively located in the urban fringe. Trinca trying to find a ‘phone booking on the outlying high rise intercom on the wrong side of the ring road gets asked if she gives massages. The hairdressing salon with the blue neon sign reading “Lucky” is working it too hard however.
The film is a glum soaper not really lifted by its ambitions and strong cast. Castellitto’s better contribution to the Italian Film Festival has been showing up dubbed up in that nice Lavazza commercial. “In life there is always more to taste.”
The Intruder (Leonardo di Costanzo, Italy, 2017)
Mature director Leonardo di Costanzo's L'intrusa/The Intruder is an agreeable surprise. It comes with a load of social indignation and is the kind of project subsidy hungry film makers turned out with infrequent success in the eighties.
Di Costanzo had a career in documentaries, did an episode in a portmanteau film to which Jean Luc Goddard also contributed and has made one other dramatic feature. His script is co-authored with Bruno Oliviero, the director of Silvio Orlandi's 2012 La variabile umana. The approach here is to dispense with sculptured lighting and star performances in a subject that might have made a main stream dramatic feature.
Valentina Vannino, the wife of an arrested Camorra crime syndicate murder suspect, is given shelter in the hut on the scruffy suburban waste land that severe looking organiser Raffaella Giordano uses for a kids playground. She is setting up a Festa, one of the few activities which brighten the drab Neapolitan working class area. Music, a papier mache lizard and a ride on mechanical man made out of bike parts are in preparation.
The parents and school authorities object to Vannino who they associate with a brutal killing that has left one of the children mute after seeing her father beaten to death in front of her. Giordano protests that her project is "per tutti bambini" but there is an incident in which Vannino responds in character and the whole project is jeopardised.
What might have been big dramatic scenes - finding the intruder in the locked kitchen, the meeting between the two girls or the final understanding of the consequences are not shown. Instead we get loosely framed shots and subdued colour, not unlike news coverage.
The staging with families overlooking the shared ground also sometimes resembles The Wire. Mixing between source music and the play-out is about as interventionist as di Costanzo will go.
Full of telling realistic detail - the bike repair shop guy who understands how to involve the withdrawn child, the visits of the Camorra wives, Vannino's second thoughts about make-up, the severed human hand that the kids spit at. The Festa makes a nice (ironic) climax.
This one is well worth a viewing.