Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2018 8:47 pm 
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The centerpiece of this charming little film is an Italian dish called Timballo. The star is a young man called Guido. With his pursed lips and sly eyes, and his perfect focus, Guido, in the person of the actor Luigi Fedele, is like a young Daniel Day-Lewis. His every gesture counts. His key declaration is this: "Il mondo ha pi├╣ bisogno di un perfetto spaghetti al pomodoro che d'un bronzino al ciocolato" ("The world needs a perfect spaghetti with tomato sauce more than it needs sea bass in chocolate sauce"), a dictum he proudly attributes to "my master, Chef Arturo Cavalieri."

Guido is an aspiring chef. Arturo Cavalieri is a fallen three-star chef whose anger issues have landed him in jail, but who gets early release for community service, whicch takes the congenial form of coaching a group of cooking students with Asperger's. Guido emerges as gifted. He can correctly identify by the smells every ingredient of any dish he's offered. Because of his gift and his precision in the kitchen, the awkward but handsome Guido is permitted to go off to compete in the Young Tuscan Chef contest, with Arturo as his coach and minder.

The Timballo is an Italian baked dish consisting of pasta, rice, or potatoes, with one or more other ingredients included. When Guido makes the final bake-off with one other young contestant, the dish to be prepared is a Timballo with pasta. Every ingredient provided by the organizers must be used, and the final one is a crinkly cellophane bag of - chocolate. Guido refuses to add it, thus ceding victory to his opponent. But the sense of the scene is that Guido has the admiration of the audience, and of Arturo's own master, Celso (Alessandro Haber), who is also present, and after publicly tasting both Timballos, takes away Guido's chocolate-free one to savor it at his leisure and declares that the use of chocolate in the dish to be "pure heresy."

Guido belongs with such off beat winners-by-losing in real life as Ivo Pogorelich, the pianist eliminated from the Chopin competition at Warsaw in 1980. The great Martha Argerich walked off the jury in protest, and Ivo became world-famous. Or three years ago the young self-taught Lucas Dubargue, who came in only number four in the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow, but became the contestant most talked about since.

It's of secondary importance that Guido's on the autism spectrum (though actual persons with autism may not be happy with such a representation). It simply means that, like most geniuses, he has to be handled with care, and his abilities are special. Guido's story questions easy descriptions of handicapped or gifted. Like an average boy, he longs most for a job and a girlfriend. This is also a comeback story for Arturo, whose damaged reputation means his only way back is to start his own restaurant. He is negotiating for that through the other action. And the followup a year later is satisfying. As Needed is a conventional feel-good picture, but it blends the ingredients in just the right proportions and has an arresting and appealing young protagonist.

As Needed/Quanto basta,92 mins., written by Filippo Bologna and Ugo Chiti with help from director Falaschi and Federico Sperindei, was released in Italy 5 April 2018 and in Hungary in August. Luigi Fedele won the "emerging talent" award from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. The film was screened for this review as part of the 2018 San Francisco New Italian Cinema series, showing opening night, Fri. 30 Nov. at 6:30 p.m.

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