12 September 2008

THE FAMILY FRIEND / L'Amico Di Famiglia (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino, 2006, Italy)


'The Family Friend', Paolo Sorrentino's follow up to his award winning and wonderfully exuberant breakthrough feature, 'The Consequences of Love' is somewhat of a minor disappointment. Though Sorrentino finds it difficult to hold back the stylish excesses, the flair and and warmth with which he depicts his fickle and charming characters is enough to prevent him from being crushed by the force of his own Antonioni like indulgences. Beginning with a startling shot of a nun up to her neck in sand on a beach, Sorrentino is clearly attempting to refashion religious symbolism as a naked tribute to the legacy of Fellini, but it is the first of many seemingly random shots that the film celebrates for no apparent reason other than to provoke some kind of outrageous emotional response. 'The Consequences of Love' was a genuinely emotive piece of cinema that finally signalled a fresh new talent from a dormant Italian film industry. Not all is lost for the Italians as Cannes 2008 seemed to herald a new wave of emerging Italian film makers who may pose a challenge to the Romanian film movement that is still making an impact on world cinema.

Sorrentino's 2006 follow up is the tale of another loner, a tight fisted and sleazy money lender called Geremia (Giacomo Rizzo) who becomes infatuated with the daughter of a couple to whom he loans money for a wedding. Poorly structured, the film could be interpreted as an elliptical journey through the perspective of Geremia but this seems like a poor excuse for a film that is ruined by one too many cut aways, confusing inserts and pointless tracking shots of inert, postmodern architecture. Breathlessly edited, this is a film that is filled with interesting ideas but that seems to be the problem; too many ideas and none of them are really ever given time to develop and neither does Sorrentino seem particularly interested in close thematic study. Another weakness is that the central character of Geremia is totally unsympathetic which is exactly what Sorrentino was aiming for but this means we have no one left to identify with, and so as the film was reaching it's sentimental ending, I was totally indifferent to the outcome. However, like 'Consequences of Love', Sorrentino's eclectic and original taste for soundtracks is both exact and inspiring. A minor film from a film maker who has still much more to offer in the coming years.

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