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Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 20.Oct.20

The Italian Boys  
Reviews by Rich Cline
The Italian Boys
release 19.Oct.20
20/UK NQV 1h32

This collection of five short films from Italy is unusually thoughtful and introspective. Each of the shorts explores unexpressed feelings, as a range of young and older characters grapple with their yearnings and identify something basic about themselves. Each story also has an emotional kick to it, some stronger than others. And each of them leaves us pondering our own coming-of-age, and the elemental feelings that continue to haunt us.

Uproar dir Ludovico Di Martino
scr Ludovico Di Martino, Nicola Ingenito
with Rocco Fasano, Alessandro Marverti, Andrea Orano, Manuel Rulli, Antonella Aiesi, Dario Dell'Aglio, Gianfranco Miconi, Vito Napolitano
17/Italy 14m

Pipinara   4/5

marverti and orano Energetic and full of attitude, this lively Italian short opens with a blast of comedy before shifting gradually into something much, much more serious. Filmmaker Ludovico Di Martino is telling a fictional story that also carries historical implications. And as it continues, it grabs hold very strongly indeed.

In a coastal village, a group of lively friends good-naturedly steal things for cash (and pasta), even lifting a statue of Mary from the local church. But the hotheaded Claudio (Marverti) isn't happy that a skinny stranger (Fasano) turns up looking for his boyfriend Domenico (Orano). And he gets even angrier when he discovers that Domenico is going to Rome with him to turn tricks. But Claudio doesn't know that there's something even more nefarious going on here, so when he follows Domenico, he's heading into danger.

The performances have an intensity that makes the film feel urgent, offering the sense that things are changing irrevocably for these young men. Indeed, these events seem to be a point of no return, which gives the story a potent kick. Notably, Di Martino is also connecting this micro-drama to the death of Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1975. The resulting film is a strikingly blunt look at growing up suddenly, both for these characters and a nation in the wake of a horrible murder.

Tidal Time dir Dario Di Viesto
scr Mariapia Autorino, Dario Di Viesto
with Fabrizio Ferracane, Antonio De Franco, Vincenzo Marco Desario, Andrea Paladino, Giuseppe Possidente, Marilena Accardi, Maria Grazia Niglio, Anita Limongi
18/Italy 22m

Tidal Time  
L’Ora di Porto   4/5

paladino and ferracane There's an elegiac tone to this short, which is accompanied with choral music and readings of psalms in voiceover. It's also a very dark story, exploring deep-seated, openly cruel homophobia in a rural setting. Filmmaker Dario Di Viesto is referencing real events with this narrative, making a plea for compassion and true Christian values in a culture that has tipped out of balance.

On a fateful night, fisherman Capudemazza (Ferracane) very nearly loses his young son Flavio (Paladino) after sending him into the water, so he gives up fishing completely. Ten years later, he catches Flavio (now De Franco) kissing a friend, Lorenzo (Desario), and violently disciplines him, locking him in his room while viciously threatening his friend. So Flavio confronts him, saying that his father has always blamed him for his mother dying in childbirth. Which strikes a chord.

The film is beautifully shot in gorgeous locations, capturing the youthful energy of young men playing on the beach and wrestling in the surf. But this is underscored by some very dark attitudes, as Capudemazza angrily speaks about how an octopus changes its colour to fool a fisherman. It's horrific to see a father so ruthlessly demand that his son to lie about himself. And it's sickening that someone can justify assault, torture and even murder in the name of supposedly religious convictions. Importantly, this story offers a glimmer of hope in a bleak situation, while acknowledging the yearning need for change.

the dummy dir Renato Muro
scr Fabio Marson, Renato Muro
with Alessandro Berti, Sara Carbone, Gregorio De Paola, Ruben Loera, Gabriele Penteriani, Serge Pirilli, Guglielmo Poggi
15/Italy 12m

The Dummy  
Il Manichino (aka: The Mannequin)   4.5/5

berti Filmmaker Renato Muro takes a sensitive approach to this story of a pre-teen boy who doesn't quite understand his interest in the male form. It's a quiet, wordless narrative, playing out in a young mind that's only beginning to explore the thoughts and feelings he suspects might be transgressive. He only knows how he feels, and what he wants to do about it.

On a wind-swept housing estate in Rome, a young boy (Berti) is fascinated by a naked mannequin that's been abandoned in a field. Later, he watches as a group of boys vandalise and molest it. So he borrows a dress from his mother's closet to give it something to wear. And then in the night, a woman (Carbone) who is suddenly dropped off in the street seems to make a miracle happen.

There are clever cutaways to religious statues as well as fantasies this boy can't begin to make sense of. But even his GI Joe dolls are oddly intriguing to him. The camera sticks very close to this boy, as his observant eyes catch everything. It's subtle and understated, never trying to make a statement about sexuality at all. But Muro cleverly touches on the theme in ways that evoke memories of childhood and that internalised self-discovery, long before it's possible to put it into words.

Lazarus Come Out dir Lorenzo Caproni
scr Lorenzo Caproni, Pietro Seghetti
with Enrico Vandini, Davide Lipari, Fabrizio Colica, Alla Krasovitzkaya, Sara Serraiocco, Giosue Arcopinto, Davide Arcopinto, Stefano Antonio Mangia
15/Italy 14m

Lazarus Come Out  
Lazarus Vieni Fuori   3.5/5

Lipari There's a witty, comedic undertone to this warm short, in which a group of cheeky characters challenge ideas of sexuality in a Catholic parish church. It's sharply well written and directed, with a snappy sense of earthy humour that brings the characters to vivid life and offers some relaxed insight into the culture and themes. Although it's perhaps a bit too open-handed to provide a proper kick.

University student Michele (Colica) turns up in his home church to say hello to Father Walter (Vandini), announcing that his friend Claudio (Lipari) is also in town and would be happy to help with the church play. In fact, he's written one about Lazarus being raised from the dead. Walter is dubious about Claudio's artsy approach, but the girls are smitten by him. More troubling, Walter suspects that Claudio is gay, and that he's too "uninhibited" to play Jesus.

At the centre of this story, Claudio and Michele are challenging Walter's sensitivities, knowingly provoking him into various corners, hinting that perhaps they know something about him that we don't. Director Caproni keeps the tone light, generating an improvisational feel to the interaction, as Walter squirms in the presence of this riotous bunch of actors. It's feels thin on deeper undercurrents, but even just the fact that Caproni and his adept cast are floating these ideas offers some thoughtful thematic heft.

Glue dir Renato Muro
scr Renato Muro, Giulio Rizzo
with Giuseppe Orsillo, Domenico Nappa, Loredana Simioli, Sara Carbone, Lucio Esposito Di Costanzo, Michele Ferrantino, Luisa Izzo
16/Italy 30m

Colla   4/5

nappa and orsillo There's a dreamlike tone to this gentle Italian drama, which makes terrific use of underwater photography and close-ups of watchful faces. The narrative takes place over the course of 24 hours at the end of summer, as two teens go on a pointed adventure. Even if it meanders a bit, this is a beautifully balanced mix of the carefree and the foreboding, pinpointing pivotal moments in adolescence without pushing the point.

On Procida, an island in the Gulf of Naples, teen Domenico (Orsillo) feels like everything has gone wrong, frustrated by the sudden disappearance of his boyfriend. Without a home to go to, he crashes with his friend Antonio (Di Costanzo), but he has to go to work in the morning. Bored, Domenico starts pestering Antonio's younger 14-year-old brother Lallo (Nappa), and they head out for a day of playing pranks, riding bikes, swimming in the sea and sniffing glue. They also visit Sara (Carbone), a wise woman who sees through them, taking them out to embrace their possibilities.

With their matching spiked collars, bleached hair and youthful spark, these two young guys have a terrific energy, vividly played by Orsillo and Nappa to evoke a sense of curiosity and intrigue. And Carbone's Sara is remarkably straight-talking, pushing Domenico to get over his heartbreak and to be happy he was born in the right body, unlike her. Muro shoots scenes in a mix of picturesque sunshine and much more shadowy interiors, keeping the characters so close to the cameras that there's rarely any context in the settings. Which gives the film a provocatively internal jolt.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 20.Oct.20

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