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CANNES 2006 Competition / Italy

The extravagant Paolo Sorrentino


The extravagant Paolo Sorrentino

Change was in the air yesterday in official competition, with the screening of the third feature by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, Family Friend, a film that sets itself apart from other competition titles, which have been short of spectacular so far.

A post-modern, rock & roll homage to Fellini, the 35-year-old Neapolitan director’s new masterpiece is a real gem of his tragicomic style that has mesmerised audiences. After the elegant and minimalist The Consequences of Love (in competition at Cannes in 2002), Sorrentino has totally changed direction by making a maximalist tribute to ugliness in a visual style full of vitality.

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With fluid and incessant camera movements accompanied by music ranging from classical to hard rock and the sudden acceleration of the story’s rhythm, Family Friend flirts openly with experimental film, sometimes bordering on the imaginary. But the film especially gives its unknown actor, Giaccomo Rizzo (a star of comic theatre in Naples who has played small roles in cinema, including in Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900), the chance to give an extraordinary performance.

An elderly, ugly, avaricious, irascible moneylender living on his own with his mother in a shabby apartment, Geremia de Geremei, nicknamed the "Cœur d’Or", interferes in the private life of his debtors, becoming the "family friend".

Teeming with dialogue characterised by subtle humiliation and a comic touch that does not shy away from rudeness, the film is a paradox because the “Beast” falls in love with the “Beauty” (Laura Chiatti ); a slow metamorphosis with astonishing consequences.

Interested in debased humanity, Sorrentino offers a splendid visual masterpiece choreographed by DoP Luca Bigazzi in the fascinating Agro Pontina region, in a town with impressive Fascist architecture and deserted beaches. This ultimately creates a film that is not afraid of taking risks and a filmmaker that traces an ultra-personal route with disconcerting richness.

Produced by Indigo and Fandango with backing from Medusa, and co-produced by French outfit Babe Films and StudioCanal, the €3.4m Family Friend is being sold internationally by Wild Bunch.

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(Translated from French)

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