54th Chicago Int’l FIlm Fest #6: “Naples in Veils” (Italy)

“Naples in Veils” (Italy)
Directed by Ferzan Ozpetek

naplesinveilsFerzan Ozpetek’s “Naples In Veils” may quite possibly be the most Italian movie I’ve ever seen. Seriously, if you were to make a caricature of an Italian romantic mystery, this is what it would look like. So far so good, right? Well, not exactly. I saw the lead up to the “twist” almost immediately upon its initial reveal – a full hour before said reveal, and without the mystery, all that’s left is the romance. And, alas, after the initial ten minutes it’s just not romantic or hot enough to drive us the all way through to the end. And the ending. Two words. Oy vey. Ozpetek obviously loves Leone, Hitchcock and DePalma…since so much of the script steals from their works. But it’s just too tall an ask.

That’s the bad – and that’s all on Ozpetek’s script, which I’m sure he thought was fantastically exciting. The good? Pretty much everything else about it. The look, the performances, the music, the locales…all ranging from very good to outstanding.

Firstly, the imagery has that lovely, rich quality that bigger-budget Italian films all seem to have. The colors are more vivid and the light has a brilliant sheen, as if the natural light is always perfect every minute of every day in southern Italy (interestingly, another film I saw at the festival, “The Stolen Caravaggio,” which has Palermo at its center, possesses the exact same luminescence, so perhaps it IS the region). Regardless, Gian Filippo Corticelli’s cinematography cannot be ignored. It was  my favorite part of the experience and often made up for the more eye-rolling moments of the tale. A close second is the overall look and feel of the locations chosen by Ozpetek. I’ve never really thought of Naples as a tourist destination (in fact, I blew through it on my way from Rome to Amalfi), but I absolutely do now.

The acting ranges from natural expressionism to over-the-top melodrama, yet it’s all successfully in service to the script’s highs and lows. Our lead, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, brilliantly handles the sense of longing and hope that goes hand in hand with the built-in pessimism that accompanies ideas of romance when crossing in to mid-life on one’s own [he said, speaking from first-hand experience]. However, the story asks the absurd from her, and as a result, she must, not of her own volition, flail a bit as we lurch to the film’s conclusion. Alessandro Borghi (who looks just like an Italian Bradley Cooper), tries his hardest to pull off an almost impossible feat…and comes very close, but, again, for me, the script puts up far too many barriers for him to succeed. However, the same can not be said for the successful marriage of script and performance by Biagio Forestieri (a sympathetic cop) and the inimitable Peppe Barra (an empathetic uncle). The two are terrific, and honest, and real and every time they are on-screen the energy of the film clicks up quite a bit.

Fianlly, Pasquale Catalano’s music is exactly as you would expect for a sweeping romantic thriller from Italy. Lush, aggressive, expressive and symphonic, it’s another of the film’s highlights.

So…should you see it? Sure, why not. It has so much going for it that I think one can overcome the holes in the script. And, like the people sitting around me, maybe you won’t see the twist. I hope you don’t, it would have been much more enjoyable for me if I hadn’t.

Okay, I’m off to book a trip to Naples…

(another trailer with no subtitles…but watch anyway to see how much Borghi looks like Bradley Cooper!)

Written on 10/24/2018

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