Friday, April 30, 2010

Tribeca LOOSE CANNONS: Ferzan Ozpetek cooks up a hearty, friends 'n family stew

Who'd have imagined that a current movie about a gay man coming out to his family might have anything remotely new or interesting or even particularly entertaining to say?  Turkish-born, Italian-bred Ferzan Ozpetek (shown below): that's who -- and so he made this film.  Bless him for it -- because LOOSE CANNONS (Mine vaganti) turns out to be not only new, interesting and entertaining but deeply felt, lavishly funny and one of the most visually beautiful movies to arrive on our shores in quite some time. (It was filmed in Southern Italy, in and around the city of Lecce.)

Premiering this past February at the Berlinale, it was chosen for the just-concluding Tribeca Film Festival, where -- the evening I viewed it -- audience response seemed overwhelmingly enthusiastic.  It plays but one more time, tomorrow, Saturday, May 1 (click here, scroll and down and click again on Rush Tickets).  Because you can never be certain that a foreign-language film, even from a director as well known as this one, will secure distribution these days, I recommend you see this movie now.

Signore Ozpetek has been to the gay well a few times before -- Steam, Ignorant Fairies, Facing Windows, Saturn in Opposition -- always from a different angle and always successfully.  What he consistently manages, and what I think I love most about his work, is that he approach homosexuality as one part, sometimes hugely important, other times less so, of the world at large, in which so much else is terribly important, too.  Family, friendship, work, health (mental and physical) are prime among these, and in Loose Cannons, they come together in a combustible mix that offers everything from drama to farce, fantasy to a reality that moves from chuckles to tears.

A young man named Tomasso (Riccardo Scamarcio, shown above, left), from a wealthy family whose business is pasta-making and who is about to join forces with another prominent family, has deci-
ded to own up to his homosexual orientation -- after which, he ex-
pects his father to chuck him out of home and business, freeing him to move in with his lover and pursue a writing career. Not quite. One big surprise lies in store, followed by several lesser -- most of which cause ebullient laughter but sometimes a deep loneliness.

You may know young Scamarcio from My Brother Is an Only Child, or from Costa-Gavras' still unreleased Eden Is West. After being swaggering and studly in the former, frightened and vulnerable in the latter, he is by necessity manipulative and quietly thoughtful here -- and is proving himself a more versatile actor than the pretty face with the very sexy body that we might have initially imagined.  While this movie is primarily Tomasso's story, Ozpetek insists on seeing things from many angles, and so we slowly begin to understand -- and feel for -- several generations.

The film begins, in fact, with a reminiscence of the grand-
mother (Ilaria Occhini, at right, seated) regarding her younger days (the penulti-
mate photo, below).  We learn what happened to her only slowly. The co-writer (with Ivan Cotroneo) and director gives us enough information to begin to piece together the story of this now aged but still gloriously strong woman, but we do not know it all until the finale.  Meanwhile we meet a group of people -- family, friends, business associates -- who are as diverse as they are memorable.  Dad (the wonderful Ennio Fantastichini, shown at right, three photos above), mom, Aunt Luciana (dizzy and sweetly sad Elena Sofia Ricci, shown two photos above, center, with glasses), brother Antonio (a terrific Alessandro Preziosi, standing, above right) and especially Alba, the daughter of the prospective business partner, played by the alluring Nicole Grimaudo (below, center).  Ms Grimaudo, in particular, captures a character -- nasty, funny, distant, dark, needy -- who grows more complex with each scene until she very nearly breaks our heart.

One of the great strengths of Ozpetek is allowing us to view life and sexuality from so many points of view: Here we see how the parents looks at things, the grandmother, the younger generation, straights, gays and a couple who may be more bi-oriented than they might like to admit.  There are moments between the two outsiders, Tomasso and Alba, that bond them in ways both sexual and on a level of deep friendship.  There is also some delightfully criss-crossed humor when a group of Tomasso's friends from Rome, shown at bottom, pay a visit.

The film's finale is an amazing blend of fantasy and reality, of time present and past, of what we deeply wish for but may never see.  This scene may remind you of the finale of some other films -- the little-seen-in-America Flight of the Innocent came immediately to my mind -- but Ozpetek makes it his own, and it seems as if everything he has ever learned about cinema is incorporated here.  Threatening to be too much, instead it keeps unfurling until love, sex, family and friends join in a spectacularly vibrant and moving dance of life.

About as arthouse/mainstream as it is possible to get, Loose Cannons delivers the goods.  As I go to press, the film has just won one of the two Tribeca Fest Special Mention Awards. Will some distributor -- Strand, IFC, Film Movement -- please step up to the plate and gift movie-lovers with this joyous celebration?

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