Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:41 pm 
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Sleuth du terroir

Somewhere along the way I lost track of the various narrative threads of Antonio Padovan’s Italian provincial thriller/mystery. But with this kind of mystery, what counts is the atmosphere, and the main characters, and these are all pretty good. The winemaker of noble birth whose demise begins the action, Count Desiderio Ancillotto (Rade Serbedzija), has a rough elegance that is irresistible. We know he is right, and cool, whatever he is saying or thinking, and we know his anger is justified. He disappears early on, but his spirit presides over the action that follows.

The count's death seems obviously self-inflicted. We see him sit on a tombstone and quaff a bottle of his own prosecco and wash down a bottle full of pills. But soon there are a couple of murders. Authorities tell us the Italian white wine called prosecco can be spumante (sparkling), frizzante (semi-sparkling), or tranquillo (still, or literally "quiet"). For the Count it winds up being very tranquillo indeed.

Stucky, the fledgling inspector on the case, as played by the very large (in height and girth) and currently very busy Italian actor Giuseppe Battiston, is the kind of guy you want to follow around. He is a giant teddy bear of a man, and his physicality inspires confidence, while his uncertainty as a detective awakens our sympathies. He is Persian-Italian, and watever that means, it's part of the layered complexity of a story that's meant to tease and perplex us.

The other star of the film is the rolling hills of Valdobbiadene, in the Veneto, a region, like so many in Italy, so photogenic it makes you wonder why you stopped going over every fall.

The Last Prosecco has evil polluters, political manipulation, a crazy man in a graveyard scraping off rust and talking to the dead. He may know something. There are three women, the count's mistress (Silvia D’Amico, who will be demoted to prostitute in Hotel Gagarin), his long-absent daughter (Liz Solari), who's been living in South America, and his bossy housekeeper (Giselle Burinato). When the housekeeper orders Stucky to get out, and he doesn't, and stays to talk to the daughter, we realize he has some authority, after all. This is an environmental drama whose resonance is considerably enhanced by the beauty of the local location where the popular prosecco, sometimes a substitute for champagne and also used in the Bellini and spritz cocktails, is made. This is Padovan's first feature after a series of prize-winning shorts. He was schooled in film in New York, and made a short documentary about the tidal wave and earthquake in Japan. He returned to his native Italy to make this film in 2016.

The Last Prosecco/Finché c'è prosecco c'è speranza ("As long as there is prosecco there is hope"), 101 mins., debuted in Italy in Oct. 2017. Screened for this review as part of the New Italian Cinema series in San Francisco, where it plays at the Vogue Theater Sat., 1 Dec. at 6:00 p.m.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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