Matt Micucci continues his report from the BFI London Film Festival with a look at Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s Salvo and Daniele Gaglianone’s My Class.
Salvo (Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza)
Set in hot Palermo, this is the story of a cold-blooded killer who gets himself into trouble with his own people when he can’t kill off the blind sister of a man who tried to murder him. Conveying the element of the girl’s blindness, the film is quite a sensorial experience that drifts away from the usual cinematic language by putting less emphasis on dialogue and more on creating a compelling atmosphere moved forward by the titular character’s conflict of emotions.
Without disregarding its moments of tension and an intense show down, what seems to start as a violent gangster film becomes a hopelessly tragic love story that is at once harrowing and charming. Saleh Bakri is an excellent choice as Salvo, and delivers a penetrating performance as the man of few words, one that recalls Clint Eastwood in the renowned Sergio Leone Dollars trilogy.
My Class (Daniele Gaglianone)
Gaglianone takes on an issue as difficult, particularly in Italy, as immigration by filming in a real classroom where immigrants learn English but with a fake teacher, one of contemporary Italian cinema’s greatest actors Valerio Mastrandrea. In My Class, the documentary intersects naturally within the artificial narrative structure, and as a result the film ends up becoming a most inventive and powerful exercise in docufiction.
There are many laughs and many tears. One may be inclined to think that Gaglianone actually comes across as a winner only in selfish terms – the message the film carries is far too grand for the artistic vision he has in mind and sometimes he may comes across as slightly exploitational as well as self-apologetic, particularly in a sequence where he fails to help an African man get his work permit renewed. Yet, in knocking boundaries, he is quite successful in making a subject so difficult to understand suddenly universal and showing a helplessness and frustration that goes along with dealing with this particular subject.
My Class is uncomfortable, perhaps even controversial, but the simple fact that it raises such an important issue makes it brave and ambitious.
On a side note, considering the factor of the Italian language classroom, somehow remarkably manages not to restrict its audience in the international film and not much of the appeal of the film’s dialogue is lost in translation.