Dir/scr: Marco Bellocchio. It. 2006. 102mins.

After his compelling Red Brigade psycho-drama Good Morning, Night, Italian auteurMarco Bellocchio returns to the hermetic, dreamlikemode of The Hour Of Religion with hislatest effort, The Wedding Director, inwhich a leading arthouse film-maker is talked intoshooting a Sicilian matrimonial video.

Bellocchio is a profoundly visual director, and although hislatest work has a plot of sorts and a satirical subtext (with a series of barbsdirected at the contemporary Italian film industry), itworks more on a subliminal level through framing, imagery and montage thanstory and dialogue. But without the documentary realism and urgency of Good Morning, Night to anchor it, hiscinematic poetry drifts off into regions that mere mortals cannot reach,creating a fitfully enjoyable but ultimately frustrating experience.

Though Bellocchioalways posts respectable results on home territory The Wedding Director - which opensin Italy this Friday - is unlikely to see a great deal of overseas action, exceptin cineaste France, where both the director and his lead actor are knownquantities. Certainly its film industry satire - better handled by Nanni Moretti in the recent The Caiman - may play well in Italy butwill baffle foreign audiences.

In many respects The Wedding Director feels like areprise of The Hour OfReligion. Once again, Sergio Castellitto plays acreatively blocked artist who seems adrift from the world, lost for words,emotionally autistic. Once again, Bellocchio airs hisdoubts about hardline Catholics, once again heobserves decadent aristocrats moving around inside empty stately homes.

Occasionally comic,undeniably evocative and at times simmering with passion (though it peddles thedark-eyed Sicilian cliches), it proves a feature-length glimpse into a psychethat can't, or doesn't want to, melt down its obsessions into afully-functioning drama.

It's typical of Bellocchio that he takes a plot that might have made adecent Hollywood comedy and turns it into an existential tone poem. On a beachin Sicily, Franco Elica (Castellitto),a 'serious' film director, meets Enzo Baiocco (Cariello), aloud-jacketed colleague and admiring fan who makes a living shooting weddingvideos. The scene in which Elica advises Baiocco on how to give the video of two newly-weds more ofan artistic edge is absolutely hilarious, brilliantly played by Castellitto in what one suspects is a parody of thelascivious tendencies of the mature Antonioni.

Seeing the result, amysterious, haughty Sicilian aristocrat, the Prince of Gravina(French veteran Sami Frey) asks Elicato direct the wedding of his daughter Bona (Finocchiaro).Elica becomes obsessed with passionate virgin Bona,conflating her in his mind with the Lucia of Italian classic novel The Betrothed, which he is currentlyattempting to adapt for the screen. Elica's 'direction' of the wedding thus becomes an effortto direct Bona away from her gormless bridegroom and into his own arms.

Bellocchio's most cinematically self-conscious film, The Wedding Director plays with Handycam wedding footage and black and white CCTVsequences; it also introduces the entertaining but fairly incidental characterof Smamma (Gianni Cavina),a fellow director who has staged his own death in a last ditch attempt to cleanup at the annual Italian David di Donatellocinema awards (here renamed David di Michelangelo).

There's more meat in Bellocchio's cinematic craft than in his cinematiccritique: in purely visual terms, this is one of the director's most ravishingfilms to date. Pasquale Mari's carefully composed photography is at its mostcompelling in the scene when the Principe signs up Elica:we see the two of them on a balcony, distorted by the rippling glass of a Frenchwindow; but when the door opens and they enter the room they are still a littlewavy - and it's only then that we realise that the camera itself is still aroom away, behind another window.

Production companies
Rai Cinema
Dania Film
Surf Film

International sales
Celluloid Dreams

Italian distribution
01 Distribution

Marco Bellocchio
Sergio Pelone

Pasquale Mari

Production design
Marco Dentici

Francesca Calvelli

Riccardo Giagni

Main cast
Sergio Castellitto
Donatella Finocchiaro
Sami Frey
Gianni Cavina
Bruno Cariello
Simona Nobili