Dienstag, 2. September 2014

Venice Film Festival: Il giovane favoloso (Leopardi) / Loin des hommes (Far From Men)

"Il giovane favoloso (Leopardi)" is an earnest, stately, densely written biopic about famed 19th century Italian poet/philosopher Giacomo Leopardi. Often quoting verbatim the verses of its central character, the reverence with which writer/director Mario Martone treats the subject matter is palpable, and all those precious words bring with them a gentleness to the picture so universal it transcends the challenge of translation or reference. That said, the movie just might be a bit too literate to appeal to a broad audience. The constant, apparently unabridged recitations of Leopardi's work, though cinematically framed in the context of the various stations of his life, is steep and lessens the narrative fluency. Lead actor Elio Germano is appropriately dreamy, impassioned, tormented as the genius increasingly crippled by the demands of his own mind. The final scene, filled only with his musings in the night, with as many stars in the sky as in his eyes, is undeniably moving. The music, by turns swelling and sizzling, tries to add a contemporary touch to the story but, especially in the case of the several English language songs used, proves an ill fit for the classical beauty portrayed on screen.    

"Loin des hommes (Far From Men)" is the type of movie you can't say you don't like without sounding like an ignorant, unsympathetic cynic. But as a matter of fact this Algerian-set historical drama/adventure, in which a French teacher must escort an Algerian convict to the next destination, doesn't strike me as above average on most counts. Production value is unremarkable, although they definitely found some impressive locations to shoot in, letting all that sand and rocks afford the film a naturally rugged look. Viggo Mortensen is dependably good as someone caught between two identities but acting in not one, but two non-native languages (French and Arabic) does take away some degree of conviction from his performance. Reda Kateb is definitely adequate as the other half of the on-screen duo though his is not a breakout star turn on the level of, say Tahar Rahim in "Un prophète (A Prophet)". Writer/director David Oelhoffen opts for a sober style to tell the story of friendship born under conflict and the senselessness of hate. While the goal is certainly respectable, the results are rather unexciting.

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