Review: The Adventures of Gigi the Law
- This sensitive and at times surreal depiction of a rural policeman (the director’s own uncle) marks the mighty comeback of Alessandro Comodin
After winning the Golden Leopard in the 2011 Cineasti del Presente line-up with Summer of Giacomo [+see also:
film profile], Alessandro Comodin is returning to the Locarno Film Festival - the International Competition this time round - to present his latest feature film, The Adventures of Gigi the Law [+see also:
interview: Alessandro Comodin
film profile], which is a perfect blend of documentary and drama, tinged with magical realism.
An ever-attentive observer of “atypical” characters who exist on the fringes of a hyper-technological and high-performing society dominated by cisgender males, Alessandro Comodin turns his gaze onto his uncle, a rural police officer who lives in a town in northern Italy (a region where the director was raised), in his latest feature film The Adventures of Gigi the Law. In a superhuman effort to examine a very specific community - that of peripheral northern Italy, dominated by a “far niente” attitude which has long since lost its charm - Alessandro Comodin charts the ups and downs of his uncle in a huis clos unfolding almost exclusively in the front seat of his patrol car.
We know next to nothing about Gigi (Pier Luigi Mecchia), other than what he does for a living. We’re told nothing about his private life, although his colleagues insist he’s a hardened Latin lover. And it’s this vagueness, this need to construct our own narrative, the mystery surrounding the film’s main character, that makes the movie especially interesting. The director doesn’t look to deliver a precise sociological portrait of his uncle, but to let us into the everyday life of a man who seems to be treading water and creating his own salvific pipe dreams.
Gigi lives in an unspecified place, distinguished only by a proudly spoken Friulian dialect (Pasolini seems to echo in the characters’ words) and a landscape which sometimes becomes jungle-like, such as the protagonist’s garden which is the only place where we see him, albeit briefly, in his civies. A middle-aged police officer who, in true model Italian male style, doesn’t seem to have lost any of his seductive prowess, Gigi appears to be stuck in the past. Caught between reality and (copious) fantasy, and with the help of the dispatch radio, Gigi establishes a long-distance relationship with new colleague Paola, composed of double-entendres and thinly veiled erotic jokes, which soon slips into parody: but does Paola really exist or is she just a figment of Gigi’s imagination? A never-ending succession of daily rounds go by, like soporific rituals, until a girl suddenly takes her own life by throwing herself under a train. This pushes Gigi to probe the depths of his inner world, looking beyond reality and the (at times grotesque) social mask he has crafted over the years.
Through meticulous and empathic observation, Comodin manages to transform the reality which surrounded him as a boy, and which Gigi embodies to perfection, into a tragic work of poetry. In this light, the girl’s suicide becomes a metaphor for boredom which has morphed into (comfortable) immobility. However, much like the girl found on the train tracks, Gigi consoles himself by revelling in a romanticism of times gone by, meaning that the “train of life”, his growing awareness of a world that’s far darker than he’d like it to be, might suddenly overwhelm him. The final scene where we see him on a bench in a psychiatric hospital and where, for the first time, the police officer reveals something of his inner world, is powerful and poignant in this respect.
By way of his uncle, Comodin offers up a modest and poetic portrait of a society tragically suffocated by an intrusive and restrictive hegemonic masculinity which prevents us from expressing our fragility in all its revolutionary beauty.
(Translated from Italian)
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