Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:55 pm 
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Such great luck

Two young men, childhood friends, Mirko and Manolo, live in a bad suburb of Rome with their single parents. They are in restaurant trade school and delivering pizzas, and driving around one night with Mirko at the wheel, hit and kill a man. They flee without thinking and are terrified. Manolo takes the problem to his unscrupulous dad (Max Tortora). He comes back next day with great news: the guy they killed was a police informer and killing him puts them on the good side of a gang. Before long, though Manolo tries to muscle Mirko out at first, the two best friends are together as low-level assistants. They kill people. They maintain prostitutes on the street; Mirko does, anyway. They help out with drug production (or observe it). There is talk of selling 15-year-old girls.

Supported by his low-life gangster wannabe dad, Manolo seems the most guilt-free. Mirko (the actor has big wide frightened blue eyes) is troubled all the time, gets on badly with his mother (Milena Mancini) and drives away his girlfriend (Michela De Rossi). (More focus is on Mirko throughout.) The Innocenti brothers, whose debut this is, lay it all out with smooth rhythm. Their primary actors (especially Matteo Olivetti in the main role) are fresh and convincing. The film seems to take a page from Matteo Garrone and this could be a chapter from his celebrated but grim Gomorrah and part of a new school of more naturalistic and even sociological gangster film that's emerged in Italy.

But how do we take this? In his [url=""]Variety review[/url] Jay Weissberg is troubled: "While the directors refuse to sensationalize the violence," he writes, "they troublingly attempt to accord sympathy to two characters whose moral compasses are patently beyond repair." Writing in [url=""]Hollywood Reporter [/url], Boyd van Hoeij
is merely impressed. "What makes the film so fascinating to watch," he says, "is that the psychology of the boys keeps bubbling to the surface organically, making it easy for audiences to understand the thought processes behind their (frequently not advisable) actions. And, of course, there’s the irony that to digest the fact they killed an innocent man, they turn to killing more men — except now they are not always that innocent." Yes, there is that irony. Watching this film makes one feel dirty - and unenlightened. Perhaps that is intentional.

The best irony comes when two gang bosses discuss sending Mirko and Manolo in to kill a bigger shot, a threat to the clan's authority (before they've killed only the infame, the "grass," the "informer," and Moroccans who owed money), and it turns out the bosses find the boys shockingly amoral. "Those two don't care about anything!" Even in the gangster world their values make them outsiders - who don't matter, because they came in from nowhere, with an eagerness that was suspect. This dialogue, like the talk of the boys, is overly explicit. This film doesn't like gray areas. It hasn't the time. It's not a gangster epic, just a series of vignettes.

Filmmaker brothers Damiano D'Innocenzo and Fabio D'Innocenzo spent their childhoods on the outskirts of Rome painting, writing poems, and taking photographs, and in this promising feature film debut indeed show an excellent sense of the cinematic medium. As van Hoeij notes, some counterintuitive shots work well, particularly a long, slow distant shot of the desolate area of shacks where the boys are going to have to move in for the kill, perhaps the most memorable moment of the film. Every moment is harsh, vivid, and intense. Meaningful is another matter. A second viewing did not leave me feeling any the wiser, but the scenes still seemed realistic, if perhaps a little glib and, as hinted, over-explicit.

Boys Cry/La terra dell'abbastanza, 94 mins., debuted in the Panorama section of the Feb. 2018 Berlinale, also showing at Genoa, Edera, Chicago, and Miami. It won five Italian festival awards and was included in Open Roads: New Italian Cinema at Lincoln Center May 2018. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco New Italian Cinema series, where it shows 2 Dec. 2018 at 2:15 p.m.

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