Dir/scr: Francesco Munzi. Italy. 2008. 103mins.
Frederico Munzi lives up to the promise he showed in his debut Saimir with this dark multi-linear drama-thriller set amongst Italy’s new immigrant underclass. It’s a timely theme given the ongoing crackdown on illegal immigration by the country’s recently elected centre-right government. But this gritty, issue-raising film is also a good advertisement for Munzi’s growing maturity as a director and screenwriter.
The topicality factor should boost The Rest Of The Night’s Italian prospects, though its bleak story and swathes of subtitled Romanian dialogue may confine it to the arthouse. Abroad, the buzz generated by the film’s Directors’ Fortnight debut could possibly generate interest.
Though on paper the central story of a failed robbery in a rich family’s CCTV-protected villa looks like something we’ve seen before, Munzi makes it fresh by making us care about the characters. The film is lifted by a strong cast - including Laura Vasiliu from 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days - and a deft interweaving of its three main storylines.
But The Rest Of The Night’s real claim to attention is the ring of authenticity in its outsiders-eye view of the ‘developed’ West: it’s here that Munzi (who has a background in documentary, and has spent several years working with immigrants) has an edge over other recent directors who have tackled similar themes.
There’s a queasy inevitability to the proceedings here, although all the characters are still given time to develop. The story begins when neurotic, highly-strung Silvana (Ceccarelli) sacks her Romanian maid Maria (Vasiliu, good once again as the unreliable victim) over a stolen pair of earrings. If Silvana and her rich, unfaithful businessman husband Giovanni (Recoing) at first appear to be steretoyped representatives of an alienated bourgeoisie (familiar from a certain strain of 60s and 70s Italian cinema), they take on depth as the story proceeds.
We follow Maria back from the cold villa-studded hills outside to inner-city Turin, where she reconnects with the boyfriend she jilted - Ionut (Lupescu), a chancer with principles who lives off a mix of day jobs and petty crime - and drives a wedge between him and his jealous, insecure teenage brother Victor (Victor Cosma).
A third storyline tracks borderline-psychotic Marco (an intense Cassetti), Ionut’s occasional partner in crime, as he snorts coke, scores prescription tranquilisers from his doctor and, in a couple of emotionally devastating scenes, tries to bond with his eight-year-old son, whom he has little legal access to.
Munzi and his DoP Vladan Radovic show us the underside of Italy. Shot in grainy steadycam in the north-east - one of Italy’s richest regions - the film maps out a landscape of rivers under huge concrete flyovers, scrappy gypsy encampments and crumbling Turin tenements which now host an international immigrant subclass. Unforgiving daylight turns gradually to night as the dramatic screw tightens, and music is used sparingly but effectively.
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