Samstag, 6. September 2014

Venice Film Festival: Pasolini / Le dernier coup de marteau (The Last Hammer Blow)

One could dismiss American writer/director Abel Ferrara's "Pasolini" as no more than a shrill campfest complete with an orgy scene accompanied by fireworks and a falling star. But when touched by a master player of style, it also becomes this sleek, darkly shiny thing purposeful in its own way. Chronicling the last days of famed Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini's life, the freewheeling biopic glides in and out of the realm of reality, teasing with changes in perspective without a care for consistency. While none of it seems to be done in a uniquely meaningful way, the formal diversity brings a necessary structural complexity to a picture otherwise too limited in scope (running only 86 minutes). Providing eye candy galore to further enliven the biography is the posh production and costume design, silky, lush, sparkling with an almost erotic luxury. Willem Dafoe is properly absorbed in a larger-than-life personality, even if the narrowness of the film never allows the viewer to get inside the head of this character. The fact that he mostly speaks in English is evidently a major problem, distracting and strengthening the impression of an ill-considered farce.

Channeling the heart and naturalism of the Dardennes and Ursula Meier, French writer/director Alix Delaporte's "Le dernier coup de marteau (The Last Hammer Blow)" is a moving coming-of-age tale about a boy growing up in hardship. With the focus strictly trained on a single-parent family, the script and direction draw you into the very ordinary, very real struggles of the less fortunate. In its attention to detail, the script carries with it a truthfulness that's modest but compelling; the direction, unshowy as it is, is observant of subtle emotional fluctuations to convey an honesty and tenderness towards the characters. Thus, when the unknowing father returns to town to conduct an orchestral piece and the adolescent son set out to meet him for the first time, the potentially cheesy scenario is made genuine, endearingly awkward. It's a shame, then, that the movie falters in the third act, failing to build on the momentum to strike a surprising note, instead of settling for a harmless, if slight and a tad affected ending. Young lead actor Romain Paul might be too placid, impassive in his performance to be called great, but, with a steadfastness that suggests inner turmoil, he never loses your attention either.

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