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VISIONS DU RÉEL 2020

Review: Il mio corpo

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- The third feature from Michele Pennetta shows with respect and elegance the intimate lives of two characters searching for themselves

Review: Il mio corpo

The Italian director living in Switzerland Michele Pennetta presents, in international competition at Visions du réel, his latest work Il mio corpo [+see also:
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, about the dark side of Sicily which, thanks to his camera, reveals itself in all its cruel beauty. The latest feature film from Pennetta could be considered the final chapter of a trilogy dedicated to a Sicily hidden and cruel, light years away from the cliches for tourists that would like the island to be perpetually sunny and smiling.

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Oscar is no longer a child, but not yet an adult. He finds himself in this phase of life that both attracts and frightens, fascinates and worries. The world of childhood has given way to grueling work days during which he recovers bits of scrap metal which his father then sells to scrape up some money. Oscar spends his life in landfills searching for a few treasures (a statue of the Madonna or an imposing iron casing) that might bring a bit of light into an otherwise somber everyday life. At the antipodes of his world, but geographically and humanly very close, Stanley tries to survive outside his homeland of Nigeria, in an Italy that is gradually turning from an oasis into a prison of feelings. Stanley cleans the church in exchange for monetised hospitality, harvests fruit in the fields and brings the herds to pasture, taking on whatever activity might allow him to occupy his body in transition. Nothing seems to unite Oscar, the Sicilian teenager, and Stanley, a young man come from far away, except for their overwhelming feeling of having been forgotten by a world that rejects them and pushes them to the margins, always further away. Their destiny seems out of their hands, like puppets handled by a higher entity that wants them docile and submissive.

Pennetta films the seemingly banal lives of these characters up close, as if there were no tomorrow. The present of their existence is all they have left, since the future is a luxury that is denied them. The intimate life of Oscar (the powerful scene where he is at the table with his father and brother, with fleeting glances and heavy silences revealing the abuse they have suffered) and that of Stan (the touching moment when he is cooking for his friend, torn between his desire to reveal his feelings and the shyness that blocks his words) are placed in parallel as if the film was trying to unite what reality violently keeps at a distance. Despite this parallel, Pennetta does not fall into the trap of sentimentality and avoids a sweetened and undoubtedly out of tune happy ending. Oscar and Stan never really meet unless protected by the filter of the night, of the dream. Emblematic of this is the film’s final scene, which shows Oscar, asleep in Stan’s shack, while the latter, in dim light, observes the darkness. Il mio corpo is a film in which silences and looks say a lot more than words, a film both violently direct and poetic in which the light becomes blinding and the shadows ephemeral refuge for two drifting bodies.

Like Pennetta’s other films, Il mio corpo is produced by Geneva-based company Close Up Films together with Italian companies Kino Produzioni, RAI Cinema and RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera. Sweet Spot Docs is handling international sales.

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(Translated from Italian)

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