Saturday, March 24, 2007
Roy and I went to see 'L'Amigo de la Familia' (The Family Friend), directed by Paul Sorrentino, at the Renoir yesterday. We'd seen a previous film by this director, 'The Consequences of Love', which was an impressively told story of an ex mafia character stuck in a hotel waiting for a weekly consignment of money. He falls in love with a bar-maid. I liked the air of mystery with which the director surrounds his characters and the unexpected plot developments.
'A Family Friend' is ironically titled, a striking film with surreal tableaux-like images and an intriguing story line, although the title of the former film would suit it just as well. Mostly it was a character study of a grotesque, seventy year old miser,Geremia, who lives with his bedridden mother and preys on the local community as a loanshark whilst pretending to be helping them out of the goodness of his heart. His hobbies include shoplifting and beach combing with a metal detector although he also fishes with a Gino, a man in his forties who dresses in cowboy clothes and dreams of living in Tennessee. One of Geremia's more disgusting traits is his lust for young women - he watches female volleyball players from the window of his flat and then hires a prostitute to act out the game in his bedroom, using balls suspended from the ceiling. He is too mean to pay for an attractive woman, though.
All is well until he decides to take advantage of a local beauty queen whose parents are in his debt to pay for her wedding. She turns out to be more than a match for him. Shot mainly in a small seaside town in Southern Italy it also a night-time scene in Rome - one of the film's most striking shots with three middle-aged men in gladiator cotumes passing the coliseum. A major theme of the film is how dreams and obsessions rule peoples lives, whether it is a passion for bingo, or line-dancing or money. The acting, especially of the lead, was very convincing, a malevolent dwarf-like figure trotting round the neighbourhood with an overcoat draped around his shoulders and a plastic bag swinging like a huge flaccid phallus from an arm in plaster. In the tradition of humanist Italian directors such as De Sica (Bicyle Thieves) and Bertolucci ( The Last Emperor) Sorrentino has compassion for even the most repulsive of his creations.