54th Chicago Int’l Film Fest #18: “The Stolen Caravaggio” (Italy)

“The Stolen Caravaggio” (Italy)
Directed by Roberto Andò

una_storia_senza_nome_still_1Okay, so it took over a week, but the majority of my final  screenings are where the substance could be found at this year’s Festival. Maybe none more so than Roberto Ando’s “The Stolen Carravaggio”. Ando has fast moved in to that very small space occupied by my favorite directors. Granted, that placement is based on a very small sample size, but “The Confessions” (streamable via Amazon Prime) and “Long Live Freedom” (Kanopy) are both hilariously dense satires. He chooses his targets carefully and seems to have a clear enough understanding of their machinations that he takes out quite a chunk with each bite.

Well, now you can add “Caravaggio” to the list. In fact, put it on top. While it’s his most accessible film yet, it is in no way any less intellectually challenging. Simultaneously crushing the Sicilian mob, corrupt politicians and the ways in which films get financed, Ando somehow also weaves in a real dramatic tale about the nature of relationship, both within the family structure and without. Very little else to add in terms of direction since almost every frame of the film has something to do with the multiple plot-lines throughout. But I CAN say it was one of the two funniest film I screened at this year’s fest (Iceland’s “Woman At War” being the other)…and perhaps the most attention grabbing throughout. So much so that I completely forgave its occasional lapses in to sentimentality. In fact, they were an important piece of keeping it all swaddled in real emotion.

Micaela Ramazzotti is the perfect blend of hide-in-plain-sight meek stoicism, bottled up romantic longing, and the kind of frustration that can only come from a hen-pecking mother. Her journey is always a touch unclear, but her unwavering drive is ever-present…and the perfect foil for the intrigue wildly un-spooling around her. Renato Carpentieri manages to perfectly execute the role of uber-mysterious caper instigator while grounding the entire film in the upturned crows feet that adorn his world-weary smile. Alessandro Gassman is terrific as a clueless and famous-in-spite-of-himself screenwriter, and Martina Pensa pretty much steals the few scenes she’s in.

Marco Betta is practically Ando’s personal composer and his scores are sweeping, grand and very much of Italian cinema. Even when it comes oh so close to the border of stereotype, it never crosses it. The effect is to keep us inside the film at all times…wondering what will come next. And I’d be an idiot not to mention the visual richness of Ando’s films, again, particularly this one. It comes down to Ando’s shot composition and veteran cinematographer, Maurizio Calvesi. Just as in “Naples In Veils”, the world of this film is every bit as optically seductive as the story.

“The Stolen Caravaggio” is certainly not an “important” film, but neither is it fluff. No, it sits squarely in the small canon of successful, intellectual, active, and laugh-out-loud-funny poke-the-bear satires. It is just an all-around terrific film. When it gets distributed here, do not miss it!

You can watch the un-subtitled trailer here…but it’s a strange trailer for a comedy…

Written on 11/7/2018

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