One of the most unusual films in recent times that you may happen to see. But then, in my opinion Mazzacurati has always been unusual among Italian directors, due to his sensitivity and his (very un-Italian) understatement. "The passion" tells the story of a group of assorted people, bound together by the most unlikely (and, in some cases, unfortunate) circumstances, who find themselves busy staging the tale of the passion of Christ on a Good Friday in a Tuscan village, an old tradition that is still alive all over Italy. Among the characters, sometimes bizarre but seldom really improbable, two in particular stand out: an obscure, alternative film director that finds himself in a phase of creative stalemate and an ex thief turned actor (and a very bad one at that; or rather not?).
As in other films by Mazzacurati, losers are bound to stay that way, not to turn into winners; you're not in for cheesy Hollywood crap. And yet, those characters are not desperate: without even realising it, they are heroes of sorts in that they manage not to fall into despair despite the hardships of life. That happens, rather than by a deliberate choice, by clinging to sort of a little voice inside that tells them not to betray what they feel they believe in. They sometimes seem not just to suffer, but even to pursue humiliation and defeat; but, in spite of that, they retain, almost by accident, a deep-rooted naiveté and sense of humanity that makes them, in their own way, heroic and easy to sympathise with.
That happens in the lives of most of us; that is why the film is deeply moving and, sometimes very funny. It helps that the cast features several comedians, more (Corrado Guzzanti, who plays the vain Manlio Abbruscati) or less (Marco Messeri, by now a familiar presence in Mazzacurati's films, or Fabrizio Battiston) known by the Italian general public, with a penchant either for the bittersweet or for the downright sardonic.
Never understate losers; there's more to them than meets the eye.
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