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THE FAMILY FRIEND
aka L'AMICO DI FAMIGLIA
UK: Artificial Eye
Cast: Giacomo Rizzo, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Laura Chiatti, Gigi Angelillo, Clara Bindi, Barbara Valmorin, Marco Giallini, Alina Nedelea, Roberta Fiorentini, Elias Schilton, Lorenzo Gioielli, Valentina Ladovini, Giorgio Colangeli, Geremia Longobardo, Fabio Grossi, Barbara Scoppa, Lorenzo Sorrentino, Luisa De Santis, Lucia Ragni
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Countries: Italy / France
Language: Italian (English subtitles)
UK: 110 mins
UK Certificate: 15 contains strong language and moderate sex
UK Release Date: 16 March 2007 (Limited Release)
In a small town, an ageing loan shark, who lives with his mother, is undone by greed and his fatal attraction to a beautiful young woman. The film kicks in with a galvanizingly bizarre intro - a nun buried up to her neck in sand, set to a blast of what can only be described as heavy metal cello - and never lets up.
Giacomo Rizzo plays Geremia de'Geremei, a 70 year-old tailor and moneylender who has accumulated a fortune by making small but lucrative loans, but who still lives with his ancient, bedridden mother in a gruesomely squalid flat. Geremia likes to think of himself as a best friend to the people he helps, poking his nose into their lives like a benevolent but fussy uncle. But if they default on their debt, his clients are likely to find themselves buried in sand, or worse.
A highly original, gripping and occasionally grotesque suspense drama, THE FAMILY FRIEND intensely explores extreme emotions, whilst playing out a clever crime confidence-trick plot. Visually rich, the film's tragi-comic tone and almost surreal atmosphere recalls Fellini but its distinctive direction and contemporary style confirms filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino as a major talent in his own right. It's an exceptionally eccentric narrative, and Sorrentino creates visuals to match. The opening 20 minutes fire off a barrage of inscrutable, often grotesque images. The setting is a town built on swampland by Mussolini; its monumental, brutalist vistas contrasting effectively with the cramped shoddiness of Geremia's personal universe.
THE FAMILY FRIEND manages to use its small town setting and gallery of idiosyncratic characters to considerable effect. Indeed, the fact that the film manages to make us engage with and be fascinated by a central character who, on one level is irredeemably unpleasant, is a tribute to the filmmaking skill on display. THE FAMILY FRIEND is further embellished by its luminous cinematography by Luca Bigazzi and an excellent soundtrack by Teho Teardo. It is directed by Paolo Sorrentino (THE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVE)