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Agostino (1962)

Agostino is a 13-year-old boy on vacation in Venice with his widowed mother. When a local stud seduces her, jealous Agostino joins a local group of juvenile delinquents out of protest. They force him to face his budding sexuality.

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Cast

Cast overview:
... Agostino's Mother
Paolo Colombo ... Agostino
Mario Bartoletti ... Saro
Aldo Bussaglia ... Berto
Roberto Mancia ... Sandro
Gennaro Mesfun ... Tripoli
Renato Terra ... (as Renato Caizzi)
Franco Schiorlin ... Scarpa
... Renzo
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Storyline

Agostino is a 13-year-old boy on vacation in Venice with his widowed mother. When a local stud seduces her, jealous Agostino joins a local group of juvenile delinquents out of protest. They force him to face his budding sexuality.

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6 December 1962 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Agouroi pothoi  »

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Coming of Age ...
3 September 2016 | by See all my reviews

I watched the movie in Italian with no English subtitles, which made it rather confusing. So I read the book, which is rather short, to shed light on what is going on. The basic story line is the coming of age of 13 year old Agostino. To date he has led a pampered life. His mother is young, beautiful, and well-to do; and she is a widow. Agostino and his mother are vacationing at Speranzo beach near Venice. All is going well until a young man asks Agostino's mother if she will go out on a boat ride with him. To Agostino's surprise, she accepts, and the two start a romance that leaves Agostino feeling abandoned by his mother.

The young man represents the intrusion that sexual awakening brings into the life of a child. It shatters his simple childhood and his relationship with his mother. It is the parent unknowingly pushing the child out of the nest into adulthood. After an argument with his mother, Agostino runs off and stumbles into a gang of local youths about his age. They are all working class boys, not the sheltered upper-class children he is used to. The gang hangs out at the shack of an adult boatman or lifeguard named Saro at an isolated beach not far from Speranzo. Saro is clearly a sort of a father-figure to the boys, but an ominous one. The boys let Agostino tag with them, but they are crude and violent and often push Agostino around and mock him for being rich. They also tease him about his mother and her affair with the young man, and about Agostino's naiveté about sex. The boys explain it to him in graphic detail, then two of the boys show him by pretending to have sex. Agostino is both shocked and fascinated by it. But despite the abuse the boys heap on him, Agostino, whom the boys call Pisa, is strangely drawn to their company.

Agostino's life with his mother represents childhood: sheltered, care-free, safe, and naive. The mother's affair with the young man has shattered that life. By contrast, his experiences with the gang of youths represents adulthood: vulnerable, dangerous, confusing, and also exciting. Each day Agostino navigates between the gang of boys and his mother, a metaphor for the transition he is struggling with between childhood and adulthood. He has one foot in each world but does not quite fit into either.

Some reviews imply that Agostino has an oedipal complex, and is also struggling with homosexual attractions. From my reading of the book, I don't think either is true. The mother's affair with the young man forces Agostino to realize that he will not always be the center of his mother's life. She is not just a mother, but a woman with sexual desires of her own. To compete for his mother's attention, he must look upon her as the young man does, as an attractive woman. He engages in voyeurism staring at his mother as he's never done before but he is repulsed by it. I don't think his actions represent an Oedipal desire; rather it is much like a boy might look at a Victoria's Secret catalog to know what a woman looks like.

By contrast, the adult leader of the gang of boys, Saro, is a pedophile. It is not clear in either the movie or the book why the gang of boys hangs out with him. Only one of the boys – Homs – is gay. The other boys are not. In the movie, one of the boys kisses Agostino mockingly, but it is because they are enlightening him about what goes on between his mother and her young suitor. In the book, this kiss does not happen; none of the boys makes a homosexual advance on Agostino, nor does he show interest in them. One day, Pisa (Agostino) shows up at Saro's shack but only Saro and Homs are there. The other boys have gone off to another place. Pisa really wants to be with the boys, so Saro offers to take him there on his boat. As they shove off, Saro pushes Homs off the boat so he can be alone with Agostino. On the boat, Saro grabs and firmly holds onto Agostino's hand while Agostino is holding onto the tiller. But Agostino is repulsed by it and manages to free his hand which shuts down Saro's unwanted advance. I think this episode is simply intended to add another dimension of complexity and danger to the new adult sexual world that Agostino is starting to experience and must learn to navigate. To make matters worse, when Saro and Agostino arrive where the boys are, the boys start teasing him for being gay. The boys all know that you don't take a boat ride alone with Saro. Agostino, of course, had no idea and, try as he might to defend his honor, he is now labeled as gay by the other boys.

So Agostino hits upon the idea of visiting a brothel that the oldest boy in the gang had shown him. He decides that it will be his coming of age, his transition into adulthood. It will free him from looking upon his mother sexually and shift his focus onto a new, sexual feminine figure. It will also exorcise the gay label the other boys have put on him and gain him some status in their eyes. He will become a man. Sadly, the episode doesn't work out as Agostino had planned, and in the end he returns reluctantly to his mother. His attempt to make the leap from boy to man in one evening had failed, and he comes to realize that it will be a long, treacherous, and often painful process.


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