Sunday, May 29, 2005

Dopo Mezzanotte (guest review)

[This was posted in a comments box on another person's entry. For the record: DON'T DO THIS. It's comment spam. Despite this, David's review is serious and worth publishing. I will address this in yet another comments-related entry.]

"For one person to be happy, another has to cry."

Dopo Mezzanotte (After Midnight), 2004.

David Jeffers

Ironic humor, pathos and a profound respect for tradition are the sentimental foundation for this tale of Martino and his secret love for Amanda, his fast food muse. He is night watchman at the Mole Antonelliana, the unrealized synagogue turned National Museum of Cinema in Turin. Bound to tradition, represented in his Grandfather, but searching for his own identity through the vast archives he is entrusted to protect, Martino lives in a cinema purgatory of his own creation, relating more to his world of gadgets, Buster Keaton and the Lumiere Brothers than living breathing humans. Our perspective is via his first person narrative, at times more naive and youthful than we might expect. She is the wannabe bad girl, submissive girlfriend of hoodlum biker Angel. Amanda is part Fendi model, part Flora from Botticelli's la Primavera, stuck in a greasy red and yellow tile burger hell. When she deep-fries her idiot bosses trousers while he's wearing them, she seeks refuge from the police at the Mole to the surprise and amazement of Martino.

This film pays homage to film.

The cavernous, sacred setting, almost another character itself, Martino's lofty digs, his awe of Amanda and her peril suggest The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A bicycle ride with his girl on the handlebars is straight out of Butch Cassidy. He revels in the world of slapstick comedy from the silent era and it's overt, swooning, tinted romance. The humorous and almost sad sound of the Banda Tradizionale repeated throughout the picture brings to mind Fellini's Amacord. Martino executes the physical pantomime and one perfect wheeling turn, as Chaplinesque as Johnny Depp's dance of the dinner roles from Benny and Joon. In the end, Amanda, torn between Angel, an unfaithful dog, and Martino, an adoring puppy, reflects, and decides, not to decide. The final homage is a blessing,

"Two boys and one girl? I saw a French movie once."

"Was the ending happy?"

"They died."

The biggest problem with such an obvious reference is the inevitable comparisons, these three lack the depth and freshness of characters from a legend of the New Wave they seek to imitate. While very sweet and oh so curious, Franchesca Inaudi's Amanda hasn't the fire and soul of Jeanne Moreau's Catherine. Giorgio Pasotti's Martino and Fabio Troiano's Angel are merely dim reflections of those they seek to imitate. But hey, Icarus was having a great time until...

Written, produced and directed by journalist filmmaker Davide Ferrario, After Midnight is filled with pleasing and unusual images, the first and last we see, dust, floating in space. An iconic, towering, fifty foot image of Anita Ekberg, la Luna, again and again, as though the darkness of the world at night becomes the darkness of the cinema, Amanda's dream of freedom, running, as she

sleeps safely in Martino's bed, the flickering nickelodeon, literally walking and living in the camera obscura, the closing aperture of the lens. Comedy is always there, thieves drowning a car alarm in a bucket of water, the handyman Ivan, dropping from the sky for his morning coffee, Martino using his tiny antique camera to film Amanda's underwear, drying on a clothesline, two-bit gangsters singing karioke, badly, and Martino's constant eating of apples, "I hate the double fry special. I like apples," and Amanda realizes he wasn't there for the burgers, his secret love revealed.

"Always leave them wanting more," may always bring them back, but the unrealized also leads to frustration and disappointment. While on the right track, hopefully Ferrario learns and improves in subsequent films. Still, After Midnight is a sweet, endearing story of love, the movies, love and the movies and love of the movies.

"Tales are like dust. Movies may end but cinema never."

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