Thursday, 22 March 2007

The Family Friend

A thoroughly fascinating little gem from Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, this is a dark tale about a pathetic miserly loan shark (everyone’s “friend of the family”, who really seems to believe he has a heart of gold) in a small Italian town. Giacomo Rizzo is absolutely brilliant as the unlovable and lecherous old man at the film’s centre, and the film gives us just the right level of characterization to make him utterly believable and yet not quite sympathetic.

The film is rather cold, which would normally irritate me, and none of the characters are particularly sympathetic, which I often find problematic, but the many moments of subtle and ironic humour offset some of this. More importantly, I didn't leave the cinema feeling cold or feeling like I had been exposed to graphic violent or sexual images that often accompany cold European films.

The Family Friend is a beautiful film full of fascinating characters and even a bit of a plot. The town is a character in itself, brilliantly filmed to evoke bleak lifelessness, a perfect setting for the film’s wonderful core message of hope and joy (and I quote): “Everyone steals, and everyone is unhappy. Everyone!” Okay, I lied about the hope and joy, but exploring the theme of unhappiness within the context of this film (and of European cinema as a whole) provides much food for discussion, especially if we look at it from a Christian point of view. When I have time, I might try to explore this theme on the blog, but for now I am too busy being a part of the bleak European lifestyle to do it.

My mug is up on this one: ***+

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