Albanese at the heart of the Italian crisis
by Camillo De Marco
- Gianni Amelio chose Antonio Albanese’s surreal humour to capture today’s Italy.
Gianni Amelio chose the surreal comedy of Antonio Albanese in order to capture the ruins of a country, and perhaps even a world, which no longer has the glue to hold itself together. Amelio literally created the script of L'intrepido [+see also:
interview: Gianni Amelio
film profile], around his main actor. The slim content of the film, presented at this year’s Venice Film Festival, may have been due to what the director described as the permanent train crash scenario read about every day in the papers. Some of the dramatic tension needed to be dissolved.
An intrepid Albanese ends up being the one to take on the responsibility of supporting those who will emerge from the ruins and build a future. L'intrepido starts as a comedy about a 50-year-old called Antonio Pane who works as a “replacer” in Milan, meaning he takes on the work of whoever needs to be away from their job for a day so that they do not lose it. This means he goes from being a builder, a busboy and a fish market worker, to a tram driver and a caregiver. He does this for a corrupt gym owner who exploits him without even giving him the right fee. Antonio keeps on smiling though. In a scene in which he is working in a dry cleaner, he goes so far as to city Modern Times by Chaplin. He smiles at his 20-year-old son Ivo (musician Gabriele Rendina), a tormented saxophone player who helps him out financially every now and then. He smiles at Lucia (Livia Rossi), another 20-year-old he meets at one of those competition where winning is never possible. She is unable to hide her unhappiness.
The comedy of this man who smiles in order to avoid admitting he is a loser quickly transforms into a worrying drama. The signs are clear: his boss sends him to accompany a silent child to the park where he is to hand him over to an old man who is most probably not his grandfather. The underwear shop he works in through his ex-wife’s new partner turns out to be a cover for laundered money. Young Lucia decides to commit suicide. It is all too much for Antonio. And perhaps the solution is to go and work in the mines in Albania (a symbolic return for Antonio who filmed Lamerica in 1994). The only hope that is left is passed on to the next generation. Antonio will replace Ivo for one time only and pass on the uncomfortable testimony of a generation that has failed.
After a literary interlude with The First Man, based on the novel by the same name by Camus, Amelio returns to the social commentary nature of his previous films. The direction of one of cinema’s great masters, combined by the photographical talent of Luca Bigazzi, is not enough to resolve the indecisiveness of intents. Didactic dialogues, and implausible narrative elements are only partially saved by a grotesque and personable Antonio Abanese.
(Translated from Italian)