When Matteo's life falls apart, he moves into a 1985 VW van, traces his roots to Naples, birthplace of pizza, and discovers "arrangiarsi," the art of making something from nothing. He ...
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When Matteo's life falls apart, he moves into a 1985 VW van, traces his roots to Naples, birthplace of pizza, and discovers "arrangiarsi," the art of making something from nothing. He realizes he's not only "living the film," but needs to master arrangiarsi to survive.
For someone who loves Italy and pizza as much as I do, the slightly cryptic title of this film was intriguing. While I wasn't familiar with the term 'arrangiarsi', I somehow expected the usual well-worn combination of travel and food documentary: the familiar shots of glorious rolling Tuscan hills, mouthwatering pasta, and endearing gesticulating local characters. What I wasn't expecting was not only all of that, but also a cultural and gastronomic history lesson, personal roots exploration, and spiritual odyssey.
Troncone, a San Francisco native, is of Neapolitan extraction, and after an epiphany into his deep emotional connection with the land of his forebears, he embarks on a personal and at times quixotic pilgrimage to explore what it means to live life like a true Neapolitan, embracing the Naples spirit of making the most of the situations life hands you (the arrangiarsi of the title), documenting his sometimes arduous personal journey along the way.
The result is a fascinating blend of three constantly intertwining themes: an alternative and partisan history of southern Italy, which served as a welcome counterpoint to the conventional narrative; an unabashed celebration of the divine creation that is true pizza Napolitano and the labor involved in its deceptively simple ingredients (if you've never seen a self-massaging buffalo, well you're in luck); and above all Troncone's own pilgrim's progress in his quest for spiritual balance through acceptance of his ancestral and internal north-south divide. The conclusion is deeply satisfying and packs a surprising emotional wallop.
One lesson that emerges from his travels, is that true acceptance doesn't mean blandly looking on the bright side, or enduring a mindless fatalism. He reminds us that it while it is easy to feel joy when fortune smiles on you, we only fully experience life when we embrace all situations, positive and negative, head-on. As if to emphasize this lesson, Troncone bravely lets all his angels and demons have their moment on screen, both in his moments of pizza-devouring bliss, and the times where he, as he puts it, is "about to go full Italian", equanimity be damned.
True to the spirit of arrangiarsi, Troncone literally and radically rearranged his life to realize this film, and the result is a one-man tour-de-force. Practically every aspect was crafted single-handedly with the passion of a real aficionado and that love shines through. And damn, that pizza looks good.
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