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quinta-feira, 29 de outubro de 2015
Black Souls review: 'zings with realism'
There are shades of Gomorrah and The Godfather in Francesco Munzi's slow-burning Italian crime drama
The mountains of the Aspromonte, in southern Italy, are wreathed by ghosts: a fine, grey mist that rises from the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas and goes pouring up the flanks of Montalto, its highest peak. Accompanied by the dolorous clank of the bells around the necks of the long-haired goats that graze on its blue-grey slopes, it could almost be the kingdom of the dead.
This is the supremely eerie setting for much of Black Souls, a shaded, slow-burning crime drama from the Italian director Francesco Munzi. The film centres on three brothers from the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate in Calabria, and though it begins in bright, modern, chilly Amsterdam, as the handsome, charismatic Luigi (Marco Leonardi, teenage Totò from Cinema Paradiso, all grown up) brokers a drug deal with a Spanish smuggler, fate sucks him southwards, back to the mountains of his ancestors, where a grand tragedy is about to unfold.
In Milan, the smartly-dressed, cool-blooded middle brother, Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta), looks after the family accounts with his glamorous wife (Barbora Bobulova), while back in Calabria, the eldest, Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane), has withdrawn from the syndicate to herd goats in a crumbling mountain village. Leo (Giuseppe Fumo), Luciano’s disenchanted 20-year-old son, pitches up in Milan and demands Rocco and Luigi induct him into the real family business. But Leo’s quick temper reawakens a long-slumbering feud with another venerable crime family, and soon the crisis swells to take in two generations and many more lives.
That strange, conflicted tone of "operatic realism" that the critic and essayist Phillip Lopate found in the films of Luchino Visconti also runs through the core of Munzi’s film: there’s an almost theatrical grandeur to the plot, which was adapted from a novel by Gioacchino Criaco, but moment-to-moment it zings with realism. (In a memorable early sequence, Luigi and his goons kidnap two goats because they’re hungry, and butcher them in the back of their strip-club hideout.)
Fans of Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah, which told an even more intricate story of the Camorran crime syndicate from Naples, 200 miles up the coast, might find this equally thrilling, if far less frantic (like Garrone, Munzi uses non-professional locals in supporting roles to maximise the film’s realism). And in its exploration of the supremacy of family when the chips are down, there are obvious comparisons to be drawn with Francis Ford Coppola’s first Godfather film. This is Munzi’s third picture, and one that should by all rights win him an appreciative international audience.