The Obscene Life, a psychedelic journey into self-destruction
by Stefan Dobroiu
- VENICE 2014: Renato De Maria explores loss and re-invention with the help of a young Clément Métayer
Clément Métayer, the young French actor discovered by Olivier Assayas in Something in the Air [+see also:
interview: Olivier Assayas
film profile], was picked by Italian director Renato De Maria for The Obscene Life [+see also:
interview: Renato De Maria
film profile], an adaptation of Aldo Nove’s autobiographical work of the same name, included in the Orizzonti sidebar at this year’s Venice Film Festival. The film is also available in the festival’s Sala Web section.
Métayer plays Andrea, a young skater enjoying a worry-free life together with his hippie mother (Isabella Ferrari) and his always-smiling father (Roberto De Francesco). There is not a single cloud in Andrea’s sky, but soon, tragedy strikes the happy family: diagnosed with extreme depression, his mother will soon succumb to cancer, while his father is killed by a stroke. Now all alone in the world, Andrea rebels against life, the universe and everything, and when poetry and flirting with girls prove incapable of making him accept his new life, the young man starts a more extreme journey intro self-destruction.
Very exigent viewers may opine that the film seems to be a visual support to the extensive voice-over taken from Nove’s autobiography, published in 2010. Declaimed by Métayer with his ever-changing intonation, sometimes childish, sometimes throaty, the voice-over may annoy some viewers with its generosity, but will enthrall others with the interesting and catchy mix of image and free verse. According to Nove, who wrote the screenplay together with De Maria, the film’s ambition was to achieve a state of visual poetry. There are some sequences that strike the right chords in Andrea’s quest, but many will come to consider it rather pretentious and not at all obscene.
Métayer is very well chosen for the part of nihilistic Andrea, ready to break all taboos so that he can start feeling something – anything – after the tragedy leaves him completely isolated and powerless. With no plot, The Obscene Life uses the actor’s charisma to move it forward, helping the simple narrative along with some striking images (the mature prostitute eating a sandwich while having sex with Andrea, for example), an omnipresent electronic soundtrack and Daniele Cipri's interesting camerawork.