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Vicari evidently loves David Lynch. Mulholland Drive must be one of his favorite movies, as there are frequent quotations of its images in Il passato... But Vicari was clever enough to avoid making a Lynch movie, because all those who have tried have failed. He stuck to a solid thriller plot based on Carofiglio's novel, and set the film in Bari, as it should be, turning the sun-scorched Italian South into a nocturnal place of temptation and corruption. You have two young men: Giorgio, Law student, serious, hard-working, who wants to become a judge and spends his days on books; and Francesco, a gambler, a cardsharp, coming from a poor family, one who spends his days in the underworld. They accidentally meet at a party in a luxuriant villa one night, and become friends. What can they have in common? A lot more than Giorgio may suspect. They like poker, they like money, expensive cars, beautiful women, drugs. So the film is the story of Giorgio's corruption, as he discovers that Francesco's underworld is much more interesting and exciting than his previous life as a good boy. But where does this descent to hell end? Is hell just a metaphor, or is it something more substantial? Is it just a matter of those vices (gambling, using drugs, promiscuous sex) that are forbidden but that almost everybody practices, or are there bigger crimes to be committed? The relationship between Giorgio and Francesco is the main theme of the film, and poker games are no more than a metaphor of a whole lifestyle--a dangerous one, as it becomes clear as the movie reaches its ending...
Here you have three excellent actors (Germano, Riondino and Caselli are almost perfect for their characters), respectable directing, and an excellent choice of places, which give you a decent thriller. Decent but not memorable because suspense doesn't build up the way it should; when Francesco's character is fully revealed (I mean his side-business as a nighttime rapist), you almost expect it. It's not something that shocks you--and I suspect that this has something to do with how Vicari worked on Carofiglio's novel to produce the screenplay. He had to cut something to turn the novel into a film, as it's always done, but he probably cut too much.
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