Stuck in Neutral

The Consequences of Love
Quite an Italian Picture

People lend me films, a lot. I get sent films sometimes. It’s a very cool position to be in. Not quite as cool as being paid to write about them but pretty damn cool nonetheless. But there is a responsibility for you to be generous with your praise afterwards. I’m not an expert by any stretch but I know my Herzog from my Murnau so maybe, occasionally, I can offer a hint of help.

So it is with The Consequences of Love (Paolo Sorrentino, 2004). My opinion is wanted.

Mysterious hotel guest Titta di Girolamo is disconnected from everybody and everything apart from the case he delivers to a bank once a week posologie du viagra. It is all he does. Until he decides to talk to the barmaid in his hotel, and his life changes. It’s a simple premise, a straightforward reveal of a person’s life. I haven’t seen any of Sorrentino’s other films but he clearly has deft touch with the camera, smoothly sliding through the glassy minimalist Swiss architecture. He likes a mirror too, Douglas Sirk style multi-layer shot compositions are the order of the day. Like Sirk’s films this has the dubious effect of pulling you away from the story and dazzling a little with technical ability. A minor complaint but one that can stop you completely falling in with the story.

Stylistic qualities aside, the film forms a curiously neat partnership with another that I’ve watched recently – Andrei Tarkovsky’s Sacrifice. Another film with twinned central themes of love and death. And that’s at the centre of Sorrentino’s film. A life without risk, without chance, is not a life at all. And what is love if not a risky enterprise? So we see the routine and serenity of Titta’s life disturbed by his gentle, burgeoning and occasionally clumsy love for the barmaid, Sofia. Various second string characters factor in to this particular view. The ageing couple who room next to Titta are caught in a spiral of debt, having sold once great riches to fund a gambling habit. The husband, desperate to die with meaning and purpose, wants to go to Monte Carlo and live his last days extravagantly; the wife still clings to former glories, objects and regrets. They wrestle with burning out or fading away. Their fate is suggested and seems to agree with Sorrentino’s own view for his main character, Titta.

Consequences benefits from a superb central performance from Toni Servillo as Titta, who reminds me somewhat of a less expressive Stanley Tucci. This minimalism of expression is part of Titta’s armour. Eyebrows gently twitch, eyes cast downward and away. It’s a wonderfully measured delivery. A more demonstrative performance and it would be an unwatchable pantomime.

As an example of a national cinema it’s interesting to plot where Consequences lies (though admittedly limited by my own knowledge). Here, the mafia are a combination of aging businessmen and thorough tracksuited assassins. Coldly sterile buildings separate the true power of the Cosa Nostra from the street level dealings. It’s glimpsed only briefly, but the obvious complicity of the bank is interesting to note. This film could be paired with the modern Italian criminal epic Gomorrah. The myriad levels of criminal enterprise don’t operate separately but instead function in the heart of Italian society.

That’s it really, an expulsion of thoughts and ideas about a film that was enjoyable, if not loveable.

Fugeddaboudit

gomorrah_021

205. Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, 2008)

Sometimes a story is so large, so dense and multifaceted that a film can’t do it justice.  That’s the case with Gomorrah, it is a film which only has two hours to depict the Neopolitan organised crime family (the ‘Camorra’ what we might ordinarily know as the mafia) as documented by Roberto Saviano in his book.  The criminal element of this society is so huge that to attempt to cover it in two hours doesn’t really seem to do it justice, if that phrase can be used.  In a time when David Simon has made history with his depiction of drugs and crime in society with The Wire over the course of some 60 hours anything less is likely to seem superficial.  That is the only real flaw with the film, there is a sense that there is so much that goes untold – so much that could be added were the story told over the course of televised series.  To the credit of film-makers they have tried to do something slightly different.

Gomorrah shows the broad scope and influence of the Camorra over the social infrastructure of Napoli, from top to bottom, by weaving between five unconnected stories.  It’s a brave move because with any narrative separation you run the risk of having one thread that is more interesting than another.  Despite this unevenness Gomorrah is a film that grows as you watch it.  The first half is relatively unengaging but as it builds a larger picture it draws you further and further into the lives of these people.  Unfortunately the feeling at the conclusion is that I wanted to see something much more detailed and exploratory.  That isn’t the point of Gomorrah though, it’s a picture, a slice of a society wracked by a criminal organisation.  The stories are all ultimately expressions of the futility of any attempt to challenge the orthodoxy in this situation.  For this reason it’s not exactly cheerful but I have no reason to doubt its authenticity given the source material.  It certainly made me want to see more of this and I think an extended mini-series showing the connections between these stories would be an excellent endeavour.

As if the producers are actually listening.

Are they?

Hellooooo?