Dir: Roberta Torre. Italy. 2002. 95mins.
Dispensing with the musical numbers that peppered her first two films, but remaining true to her fascination with the character and people of Palermo, Roberta Torre still adds little new to the well-worn themes of Angela. Based on true events from the mid-1980s, the tale of a Mafia wife who betrays her husband's love but not their criminal code of honour is flatly handled and mostly uninvolving. The events themselves can only have provoked more passion and intrigue than Torre manages to convey in her muted interpretation. Lucky Red have taken local Italian rights to the film and Torre's name will earn it some attention in Italy when it opens there this autumn, but elsewhere it will likely remaining a festival traveller rather than a permanent fixture.
A glamorous figure who runs her husband's shoe shop, Angela (Finocchiaro) is also an accomplice and vital part of his drug-dealing operation. Wafting through the streets of Palermo she is more like an undercover agent, relishing the cloak and dagger aspect of her life as she delivers drugs concealed in shoeboxes and collects his payments. Then, handsome medallion man Masino arrives to join her husband's operation. A slow, simmering attraction becomes apparent but almost an hour of the film has passed before they finally act on all those lingering looks and meaningful glances.
The husband's operation has also been under surveillance by the police and suddenly the plot moves up a gear as they are all arrested and Angela is threatened with the exposure of her affair unless she co-operates. She refuses. The husband is sentenced to eleven years and disowns her, threatening to kill Masino who subsequently disappears. A postscript informs us that Angela now works as a dressmaker and although her husband was released in 1995 they have never met again.
Rather too leisurely in the first half as it soaks up the atmosphere of the Palermo setting, Angela is conversely rather rushed in the second half as events begin to overwhelm the central trio. Torre uses close-ups of a changing calendar to convey the passing weeks and months and there is a promise of great drama that is inexorably unfolding. Unfortunately, it is never fully realised. Although lead actress Donatella Finocchiaro is a commanding presence, the storyline is entirely predictable and there is little sense of a depth or fire to the grand passion that inspires Angela to risk everything. It seems more like a fleeting physical attraction rather than something worth the sacrifice and yet the same postscript informs us that Angela still haunts the waterfronts of Palermo hoping that one day her missing lover will return to her.
Torre briefly touches on the issue of the emotional damage done to the men who operate in a world of organised crime where feelings are a luxury they cannot afford and she occasionally addresses the pressures on a woman who has chosen to embrace that lifestyle. 'Since when did a wife get involved in her husband's business affair'', demands one dismissive male. Such moments suggest potentially interesting avenues for Torre to explore but they remain minor matters compared to the disappointingly humdrum love affair.
Prod co: Rita Rusic Company
Int'l sales: Adriana Chiesa Enterprises
It dist: Lucky Red
Prod: Rita Rusic
Cinematography: Daniele Cipri
Prod des: Enrico Serafini
Ed: Roberto Missiroli
Music: Andrea Gurrea
Main cast: Andrea Di Stefano, Donatella Finocchiaro, Mario Pupella