Saturday, August 20, 2011

The First Beautiful Thing (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The First Beautiful Thing

"The First Beautiful Thing" is a quiet film illustrating the arc of a family. Like many films it doesn't elaborate or embellish, but tells it's story simply. The film centers on a local Italian beauty queen (Micaela Ramazzotti) and her children Bruno and Nina. 

The father fights frequently with the mother and the children are pushed and pulled  during domestic duress. The kids crawl on rooftops ready to endure anything to escape their laconic, violent father.

Just as the kids are shuttled back and forth, so is the time and space of the film itself. As an adult Bruno ( Valerio Mastandrea ) develops a drug habit. He is a vocational teacher forced to moonlight in empty parks. Bruno also suffers from depression. He haunts hospitals when nurses aren't looking--a shadow of himself as a young person.

The trick of the movie is that it isn't obvious that the child Bruno (Giacamo Bibbiani) is the grown adult man that we now see scavenging for drugs. We are given the  crumbs of a story that may lead to an end, or ripples of a wave that might not be visible to us until it all fits together. With it's easy familial tone, the film echoes "Certified Copy", although despite the drug use there is little anxiety.

The most striking segments tell of Bruno's young adulthood. He is young ambitious and full of rebellion. Gradually he is hit with disappointment. But Bruno shields his sadness. He is whispering and silent from all but his sister. Perhaps there was a time when he wanted to be the macho mover of words and women, but  now he shifts like a passive ghost from room to room, girlfriend to girlfriend.

"The First Beautiful Thing" is notable because it doesn't  have a formed perspective. It simply shows life. And the main actress has an easy sensuality that echoes Sophia Loren.

In watching the film, I was swept and carried on a wave of images. Suddenly I sensed something slightly fishy off the coast of Livorno. Events are a little too pat, smooth and content. The story treads with a delightful haunt, but at the end, it is a halcyon holiday without a curve.

I admit that I had been hoping for a Summer of ambiguity, but the performances alone will convince you to take a swim.
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