Review: The Predators
- VENICE 2020: Pietro Castellitto moves behind the camera with an entertaining comedy tinged with black humour which sees two families from opposing social backgrounds collide
Despite the examples set by Michele Placido, Sergio Rubini, Valeria Golino and others, audiences are usually sceptical when an actor makes the leap to film direction, while film critics reach for their metaphorical gun. And, to top it off, Pietro Castellitto – the director of and actor in The Predators [+see also:
interview: Pietro Castellitto
film profile], which is screening in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival – is the son of an artist, namely the highly acclaimed Sergio Castellitto, himself an actor and director, and of the former actress, writer and screenwriter Margaret Mazzantini.
Having already starred in three films directed by his father, as well as another three titles, including the long-awaited Freaks Out by Gabriele Mainetti, which is still in post-production, Pietro is also set to play the lead role in a Netflix series about the former Roma captain Francesco Totti. At just 28 years of age, he decided to try his hand at this comedy tinged with black humour. The result hints at the possibility of a new director on the Italian film scene.
Much like in other successful comedies, ranging from Paolo Virzì’s August Vacation to Riccardo Milani’s Like A Cat On A Highway [+see also:
film profile], the present work sees people living on the peripheries cross paths with intellectual middle-class city-dwellers, resulting in tragicomic predicaments. In The Predators, we have, on the one side, the Vismara family from the Roman outskirts, headed up by Claudio (Giorgio Montanini, a scathing and hilarious stand-up comedian) and Carlo (Claudio Camilli), who run a gun shop (just like one of the protagonists in August Vacation) and are reined in by their fierce and prejudiced Uncle Flavio (Antonio Gerardi). They’re fascists, through and through, with their countless tattoos of Celtic crosses, their Mussolini portraits, their extreme right songs and their shooting range adorned with black flags. Their wives, meanwhile (Giulia Petrini, Liliana Fiorelli), dream of luxurious city centre apartments.
On the other side, we find Federico Pavone (Pietro Castellitto himself), a 25-year-old philosophy student obsessed with Nietzsche and victimised by his university professor. Bright eyed and big nosed, Federico is self-conscious, intelligent and strange, with a way about him reminiscent of Nanni Moretti in his early days. His father Pierpaolo (Massimo Popolizio) is a doctor, while his mother Ludovica (Manuela Mandracchia) is an established director who’s in the midst of shooting a historical film. Her motto is “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face” (Mike Tyson). Standing tall on one particular item of furniture in their apartment - which is located in the most exclusive district of the capital and comes complete with a uniformed, Filipino manservant - are 5 David di Donatello awards, revealing a certain degree of autobiographical irony, given the director’s own upbringing in a privileged environment. Last but not least, his dad Pierpaolo has a lover called Gaia (Anita Caprioli) who’s married to his friend and colleague Bruno (Dario Cassini). There’s also another, mysterious character in the film: the watch seller (a cameo appearance by Vinicio Marchioni) who appears at the beginning and the end of the story.
These two parallel worlds meet when elderly Ines (Marzia Ubaldi), the progenitor of the Vismara family, is hit by a car and Pierpaolo Pavone comes to her aid. A series of unfortunate and rather grotesque events ensues. The scene where the Pavone family are sat to dinner with friends and family in the kitchen is particularly effective. Castellitto’s intention is to show them all as predators in a jungle, but the director tries with ill-concealed sympathy to find the deeply buried humanity that hides inside Claudio, despite the fact he teaches his 12-year-old son to shoot a gun and sells a considerable quantity of explosives to lead character Federico for 20,000 euros. The far-fetched ending is a nod to Bad Tales [+see also:
interview: Fabio and Damiano D’Innocenzo
film profile], but we’re some way off from the D’Innocenzo brothers’ little masterpiece, because ultimately The Predators isn’t a work that takes itself seriously.
Produced by Domenico Procacci and Laura Paolucci on behalf of Fandango in league with Rai Cinema, The Predators will be distributed in Italy by 01 on 22 October, with international sales in the hands of Fandango Sales.
(Translated from Italian)
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