Friday, June 7, 2013

Open Roads 2013: Daniele Cipri's IT WAS THE SON proves the must-see of this series

You can surely be forgiven for wondering,"What the hell kind of movie is this?!" as you're watching (and being a little befuddled by) IT WAS THE SON (E'stato il figlio) for the first time. TrustMovies will need a second viewing, he suspects, to fully appreciate this stunning film, which, at first, seems like some kind of comedy. Or maybe an entertaining philosophical treatise. Oh,wait -- it's a musical, with a great proletariat dance number, too! Nope: It's actually a three-generation family drama -- about storytelling.

Stylish and stylized, this amazing saga soon becomes (or has always been, but you're just now realizing it) an ice-cold satire of Italy and how it operates on every level, from family to government to Mafia to Church -- any one of which, as it turns out, could easily be mistaken for the other. By the finale, one of the finest in any movie from anywhere in recent memory, the film has become a unique horror story of the Italian family unit. The filmmaker, Daniele Cipri (shown at right), is here working for the first time without his usual partner of many years, Franco Maresco. I've only seen one of their collaborations, Toto Who Lived Twice, which I have to say left me cold, so I can only herald Cipri's solo debut as some-thing wonderfully special. If It Was the Son is any indication of what he can achieve all by himself, we're in for some marvels to come.

Throughout the entire film there is a lovely framing device, the full meaning of which we cannot understand until the very end. We wonder what this device means, but so oddly endearing is it, and so strange and delightful is the performer who inhabits it (Alfredo Castro, the bizarre Chilean actor who has so effectively creeped us out in Tony Manero and Post Mortem) that we simply buy into it and enjoy.

Signore Cipri has found an original style in which to mount his tale, and he has also cast it flawlessly. In addition to Señor Castro, he has one of Italy's finest actors in the father role: Toni Servillo, that shape-shifter seemingly without his own face. I did not even recognize Servillo until I saw his name in the end credits. The actor is wonderful, as (almost) always, playing the father as a figure of great fun -- until eventually you realize that he is beyond redemption.

The son of the title is essayed by a new young actor, Fabrizio Falco (above and below, left), who is already making waves, has won awards and can be seen in this film and in Dormant Beauty at this year's Open Roads series. This kids's got a gorgeous, expressive face, atop a long, lean, pliant body. Seeing him in these two, vastly different films presages quite a career ahead.

Cipri does not skimp on the women's roles, either. As the family's mother, Giselda Volodi (above, center, and below, left) provides some much-needed humanity, while Aurora Quattrocchi, as grandma (below, second from left), has a scene so strong and indelibly shocking at the film's finale for which an award -- any award -- would seem paltry. She'll make your blood run cold.

I and several of my compatriots left the press screening for this film seemingly in a state of shock, coupled to amazement and just a touch of the kind of grace that comes, not via religion, but from having seem a piece of real art.

It Was the Son, running 90 minutes, will screen three times during Open Roads at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center: this Friday, June 7, at 6pm and again at 6:30pm, and then Tuesday, June 11, at 4:30pm. Click here to view the entire Open Road series.

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