L'amico di famiglia (2006)
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This follow-up is set in what was once the Pontine Marshes, near Rome. The protagonist Geremia di Geremei (Rizzo), an ageing tailor and loanshark, employs a couple of heavies, one of whom supplies the history in seconds: while putting pressure on a couple of borrowers, he suddenly turns and slaps the wall behind him. "A mosquito! All this was swamps before Il Duce!" - then smiles broadly at the suitably startled face of the 'customer'.
Geremia, who would come over as nothing but scruffy but for his affectation of wearing his jackets and coats over his shoulders like a grand impresario; but who spends the whole film with one arm in a cast, hinting at some previous shenanigans, scuttles (there's no other word for it) between his 9 to 5 ragtrade shop which is obviously more than a mere money-laundering front, and the smelly little flat which he shares with his bedridden mother, who spends all her days glued to the TV. Not your typical hood.
In his sweatshop he accepts entreaties from desperate low credit citizens - much of his business is for weddings. He puts on a mock-uncle affection for the potential brides, and they try not to gag as he oozes all over them. (It later becomes apparent that he is actually carrying on the family business.) He and his customers have a tacit face-saver, in referring to him as a 'friend of the family'. When he and his 'boys' visit one late-paying couple, the jewellery and kitchen appliance they take are not quite enough, and he returns for further tribute from the wife in the form of a perverse sexual / financial / sentimental action, a deeply symbolic scene that seems to hint at a lot about his character. Some friend.
Another scene where disparate elements make their own logic is where the beautiful Rosalba (Chiatti) wins a beauty contest and goes into her winning dance routine, hot and writhing but against limpid and cool synth music. Her subsequent wedding becomes the first of Geremia's shake-ups: her father, although disgusted with himself, unable to handle the payments necessary to cover the costs of the celebration, engineers an opportunity for the tailor to be alone with the bride, ostensibly to repair a broken shoulder-strap on her wedding-gown.
The next big move is when Geremia, against the advice of his mother, takes on the loan of a lifetime; the lure of big business and the barely credible relationship between this latter-day Gollum with the feisty Rosalba explode the top end of his life, putting an end to his extended childhood.
Practically everything that happens in this film has the apparent weight of symbolism, and doubtless some parts are, in fact, symbolic. Although its morbid purulence may leave you feeling a need to head for the wash-basin, it's fascinating throughout for its constant digging below the surface of life to examine the linkage. And perhaps as a study of the survival of the fittest. CLIFF HANLEY
Geremia is a tailor/loan shark who lives with his invalid mother in a squalid apartment in small town Italy. One day, he is asked by a waiter to pay for the wedding of his daughter, Rossana (played by the goddess-like Laura Chiatti). Geremia instantly falls in love, and wastes no time in exploiting the situation for his own dark purposes. However, Rossana gives him more than he bargained for and in a sub-plot he is betrayed by his only 'friend', Gino.
This is very much a film about appearances, and how deceptive they can be. Geremia, whilst grotesquely greedy and physically repulsive, offers some profound insights into what makes other people tick, if not himself. Rossana turns out to be the perfect foil for him, for while he has had to fight for every opportunity he gets, life has been handed to her on a plate. Ultimately they are both motivated, if not undone, by greed and pride in equal measure.
Sorrentino, who directed the stylish but more superficial The Consequences of Love, is certainly developing a distinctive style of film-making. The question is whether he can achieve a more successful marriage of the flashy modern rock sensibility with what are fundamentally old-fashioned values in story-telling. It is something which others, notably Sofia Coppola, have recently tried to do, with equally mixed results.
The inclusion of the thriller plot towards the end of film simply does not work that well, and feels contrived and somewhat unengaging: the film suddenly decides it no longer wishes to be a slightly arty character-study of a despicable old money lender and tries to be David Mamet to get the audience "on the edge of their seats" - it had the opposite effect for me ultimately. The supporting characters are rubbish - the cowboy friend is like something out of a bad "quirky" short film and the super model girl has no *beep* personality at all... The old woman who's addicted to bingo? God, it's almost Father Ted territory and without the madcap humour or silliness to make such stereotypes genuinely funny.
Some of the music was quite well-used however, and it is still better than another moving/ funny film about the Holocaust or films about small boys and their relationships with wise old men who work in cinemas.