Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 5:58 pm 
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Things are not what they seem

This is a slow-burning thriller and it has one of the best Italian actors of recent years in it, Toni Servillo of Il Divo, Gomorrah, The Girld by the Lake, and The Consequences of Love. He is Rosario, an Italian running a nice hotel and restaurant in Germany, with a German wife Renate (Juliane Kohler ) and a nine-year-old son. His past comes back with the arrival of Diego (Marco D'Amore) and Edoardo (Francesco Di Leva) two burly and explosive young men. One of them turns out to be Rosario's grown and resentful son, whom he has not seen for many years. Rosario is delighted to see Diego, but he and his "colleague" are obviously up to no good. A few words Rosario speaks to his son show he too has been in big trouble, so the atmosphere of quiet and respectability can quickly be broken if circumstances cause him to slip back into the old mode.

Cupellini creates a constant atmosphere of danger and trouble on the way -- even sous-chef Claudio (Maurizio Donadoni) seems potentially violent -- while maintaining a sense of underlying calm and routine and not overdoing anything. Servillo dissolves into this mysterous ex-pat life as he does with all his roles. He has a look of polite indifference, but turns on a charming smile for important guests. He lights up whenever he looks at Diego -- until things change. The cinematographer, Gergely Poharnok, makes judicious use of reflections to hint that nothing is as it seems. Heavy Neapolitan accents in a German resort area itself conveys menace.

Servillo's role here could be seen as a variation on Paolo Sorrentino's elegant The Consequences of Love, where he is explicitly a mafioso exiled, in quarantine, but here rather he is is hidden away, living a new life, "a quiet life." The obvious danger is that he can slip back into the old mode if the old dangers and violence break into the quiet. Comparisons are odious, but it's obvious that the cold, routinized character Servillo plays in Sorrentino's film is less appealing, but more interesting than this warmer fellow, and this is more a conventional thriller. But it provides pleasures nonetheless. When the trouble starts it's not half over. And for those of us choking on blockbusters, it's a treat to see a thriller that's a slow burner that's character-driven. In the plotline, as it finishes, there's a pleasing aftertaste of Patricia Highsmith. This, like The Consequences of Love, takes a little to long to end, but it's an excellent sophomore effort by Cupellini, and not only Servillo (as usual) but D'Amore and di Leva, a well-matched pair, interesting and complex characters who far more than just young gangster types. (Renate is a bit underdeveloped as a character.)

Screened for this review at the New Italian Cinema series presented by the San Francisco Film Society, running 13-20 November 2011 at Embarcadero Cinemas, San Francisco. (Another film in this series stars Toni Servillo: Andrea Molaioli's The Jewel/Il gioiellino. )

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