Spectators for La Vita di Comune/ The Arc of Disparate (Edoardo Winspeare) went in alongside a gigantic queue for Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade. The demographics were quite different as well. Our crowd was described as ‘smallish’, a seemingly somewhat inauspicious start for the SFF’s six film Focus on Italy, a selection of utterly unknown new Italian films by utterly unknown directors.
A hard sell at the best of times.
The Arc of Disperata is the sixth feature directed by Winspeare and it may be that some among them have been screened here before. But I know nothing of them. Perhaps those who track their way through Italian film festivals may be more familiar with his work.
The title comes up as La Vita in Comune and it takes a long time before the film potters along to the meaning of film’s English title, a proposal to liven up a sleepy town in the backwaters of Puglia, down on Italy’s heel, by building an arc.
In the meantime, there’s an action-packed opening – a bumbling attempt by two lazy brothers to rob a local service station. It must be local because the brothers rode to the place on their bikes. But they are complete dills and one gets arrested and shunted off for a couple of years in the slammer. Meantime his son, less than overly endowed with brains, has got a Mohawk haircut and is mooning over a girl who works the deli counter at his mother’s grocery.
The town then settles back into its usual level of sloth and slowly we are introduced to the long-suffering mayor, a man who knows his own and the town’s limitations. Slacking is the chief industry and languid exposition of the town’s story takes hold before things build up. Developers want to commandeer the best bit of coast for a resort. The developers are also on the town council as is the woman who runs the grocery store. The mayor doesn’t like the idea of a development to attract tourists. He wants the town to build an arc to hold the world’s animals. Cue animation.
|La Vita in Comune.The Arc of Disperata|
Parallel to that we witness the rehabilitation of the imprisoned brother via a prison poetry workshop conducted by the same local town mayor, a generous warm-hearted soul, a sort of Roberto Benigni type without the hysterics.
Would this movie make the SFF cut if it weren’t part of a package sent out by the Italian film promotion people, along with a delegation. You have to wonder. Is it a quite telling portrait, often funny, of one of the bits of the Italian populace left behind by the economic miracle that has divided the country into north v. south and east v. west warring factions. I guess it is. Has it got some heart? Yep.