Friday, March 23, 2007


Paolo Sorrentino's new film, THE FAMILY FRIEND, is one of the most sinister and stylish movies I have seen. Set in contemporary working-class Italy, the central character is a morally and physically grotesque tailor and money-lender called Geremia (Giacomo Rizzo). He portrays himself as a kind-hearted simple man who helps out friends in trouble but really he is a shrewd, sleazy, shuffling little man who uses his hold over people to insinuate himself into their lives. It is truly horrifying to see Geremia lusting over the beautiful young bride (Laura Chiatti) who's wedding he has financed. Similarly horrifying is his relationship with his house-bound mother - a character straight out of David Fincher movie. At the same time, there is something absured about Geremia's situation - a weak, vulnerable looking old man who is actually rather powerful. Sorrentino underlines the black comedy by giving Geremia a natty line in potato-filled headbands (cure for migraine, apparently) and a side-kick goon who's obsessed with Country and Western music.

THE FAMILY FRIEND gives us, in Geremia, a truly memorable character and a tragi-comic plot. But what raises it even further above the norm is Paulo Sorrentino's originality of vision. He films the story with a cool detachment that mirrors the deadpan humour of the piece. Most impressive, though, is his choice of music on the soundtrack. Geremia at his most scheming is accompanied by Elgar's Cello Concerto - not a piece I would have typically associated with such a scene - but a brilliantly bathetic choice. Later, we have plenty of early 80s synth music which gives us a cheap porn-movie feel. And even more improbably, the inclusion of Antony and the Johnsons.

In short, THE FAMILY FRIEND is the sort of movie that cine-addicts dream of: it surprises even the most jaded viewer and piques even the most satiated appetite.

THE FAMILY FRIEND was released played Canned and London and was released in Italy in 2006. It opened in the UK last week and opens in France on May 2nd.

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