Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Open Roads 2012 alumnus, TERRAFERMA from Emanuele Crialese, hits IFC Center

Immigrants again, this time on a small island off the coast of Sicily, where our hero, Filippo -- one of the members of a very divided family -- is out on the family's fishing boat with his grand-father when the pair encounters a surprise. Now: what to do? In Emanuele Crialese's wonderful new film TERRAFERMA, the decision that the young man and his grandpa make sets in motion all kinds of further happenings that show us the immigration problem from various angles and via a number of different viewpoints.

No mere intellectual study, however, Crialese's movie (the filmmaker is shown at right) tosses us smack into the action and forces us up against conflicting ideas and feelings that are as apt to be as visceral and shocking as they are sometimes beautifully moving. He doesn't simply stack up the pros and cons in two neat piles; no, he gives each side its weight and understanding, with the scales finally tipping, as they ought, toward humanity. This is the very talented filmmaker who earlier gave us Respiro and one of the best immigrant movies ever made, a work of art called Golden Door, so it is splendid to have him back with a new work like this one.

There's a scene here as memorable as any I've seen all year, in which our hero is out on the moonlit sea with a girl he hopes might become someone special. Suddenly in the near distance they see something approaching. Is it a school of dolphin? Shark!? No. What happens next is now ingrained on my memory forever. The boy reacts as the sensible seaman he is; the girl, a tourist on the island, represents our typical kindly, liberal but untutored mentality. And the outcome disrupts everything.

The islanders, as well as the family members take sides on the questions of "illegals" and "rescue-at-sea" in ways sometimes surprising that also remain open to change. Filippo's mom (ace actress Donatella Finocchiaro, shown two photos up) is probably the most conflicted, wanting to follow both the business-like imperative of her brother, who'll do anything to keep tourists coming to the island, and her father, who hews to the old ways.

Filippo (a lovely, very real performance from Crialesi regular Filippo Pucillo, above, right and further above), is conflicted, too, in his own confused and adolescent manner. Only Gramps (a noble, angry performance by Mimmo Cuticchio, shown below, in the midst of a message made of fish) has any certainty. This makes the resolution of the film -- which, like so much of this year's Open Roads, brings the theme of justice to the fore -- all the more difficult and dearly earned.

Terraferma, another must-see via the annual FSLC Opens Roads series of new Italian cinema, and distributed in the USA via the Cohen Media Group, opens today, July 24, in Manhattan at the IFC Center, and in Los Angeles on August 9, at the Laemmle Music Hall 3. Elsewhere? Click here (then scroll down and hope for the best). Whenever Cohen Media Group sees fit to update its web site, you may be able to find out where else this fine film is playing.

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