According to Certi Bambini, life in Italy’s impoverished streets hasn’t changed much since the days of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Accattone and Mamma Roma, which is not to say that Andrea and Antonio Frazzi’s first feature is at all the kindred spirit of Pasolini’s neorealist-inspired masterpieces. Unlike Gabriele Muccino, the Frazzis don’t make human misery seem fashionable, but there’s still something disingenuous—dare I say coy—about the way they evoke the horrors of their character’s lives. Early in the film, a pimp walks out of a bathroom stall and zips up his pants; seconds later, a little boy under his watch emerges from the stall, washes his mouth out with water, and says a quick hello to his friend, Rosario (a wonderful Gianluca di Gennaro), who should be used to seeing this kind of thing by now. Short of flashing a Godard-style intertitle that reads “Old Man Penis - Little Boy Mouth” on the screen, the filmmakers make it impossible to miss the implications of the scene via a spectacle of alternately glum and angry eye contact between the three characters. One of the pleasures of revisiting a great film like Accattone is watching the way a confident Pasolini makes the tragedy that befalls a down-on-his-luck pimp seem matter-of-fact—even in Mamma Roma, in which Anna Magnani’s titular character is always performing, the actress’s fever-pitched hysteria doesn’t seem to exist for the audience’s benefit but as an expression of her character’s tormented soul. But Certi Bambini is all show. From the intense Frogger-style road crossing that opens the film to the psychotropic, MTV-style flashes that structure the film as a series of flashbacks leading up to the moment when Rosario boards a train for a destination unknown, the film’s visual frills betray the reality of its main character’s hard knocks life, suggesting the filmmakers don’t trust in the material enough to simply let it be. And what’s the use in believing in a reality that doesn’t believe in itself?
- 94 min
- Andrea Frazzi, Antonio Frazzi
- Andrea Frazzi, Antonio Frazzi, Marcello Fois, Ferdinando Vicentini Orgnani, Diego De Silva
- Gianluca Di Gennaro, Carmine Recano, Arturo Paglia, Miriam Candurro, Sergio Solli, Rolando Ravello, Mario Giordano, Nuccia Fumo
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