Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Cinema Italian Style: Reckless Life

BB is a former race car driver.  Roberto his former mechanic.  Their racing days far behind them, both young men have little to show for it.  They're broke.  They live with BB's parents in a provincial town.  They can't seem to catch any breaks.  All they do now is sit around smoking pot, complaining, and trying to pick up the occasional drunk girl in a bar.  They're losers, fuck-ups.  When Roberto goes to a bank to get a loan, though, things go horribly wrong and soon he and BB have inadvertantly robbed the bank of twenty million euros, taken a hostage, stolen a car, and find themselves on the lam from the Italian police.  As I said, they're fuck-ups.  Their hostage, Soledad, is a young actress down on her luck who views her kidnapping as the perfect way for her to resuscitate her flagging career.  When Roberto starts to spout populist slogans into a TV camera during the abduction (he quotes Bernie Sanders), the three find themselves populist heroes as they flee through the Italian countryside.

Such, then, is Reckless Life (Una vita spericolata), writer/director Marco Ponti's effervescent crime-action-comedy which I saw last night at SIFF's Cinema Italian Style film festival.  I have mixed feelings about this movie.  I liked a lot of it - and I'll get to that in a moment.  But there was much of it I didn't like.  Ponti was in attendance at the screening and described the film as "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll".  And he was right.  The film has plenty of that.  But it also has quite a bit of torture, too.  And that I could have done without.  People having their fingers chopped off, dismembered body parts strewn around the floor.  It was too much.  At heart Reckless Life is a goofy action-comedy.  The brutality was completely out of tone with the rest of the film.  No doubt Ponti is attempting a Quentin-Tarantino-Elmore-Leonard-esque combination of crime, comedy, and violence but it didn't work. It never quite comes off.  Also, on a technical point, the pursuit of "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" is, despite everything, a fundamentally wholesome endeavor because it's the pursuit of fun, of pleasure, of things that are "very good indeed" (at least for awhile), as the song puts it.  A delight in torture, though, is an entirely different thing.

The saving grace of this film are its three leads.  Every time the story focuses on them Reckless Life is a pleasure to watch.  Of the two males, Roberto is the bigger fuck-up and Lorenzo Richelmy, with seemingly permanent pillow-hair, leaps into this role with gusto.  His freak-outs are hilarious - his eyes bug out, he yells, his hair seems to go airborne, he's an equal combination of fear and helplessness.  This is Gene Wilder level hysteria.  On the other hand, as BB, Eugenio Franceschini is the exact opposite - all cool stoner serenity.  As the situation worsens his calmness deepens.  There's no problem that can't be solved by lighting up a joint and handing out stacks of euros; he's part Buddha, part Robin Hood, part Jeff Lebowski.  Matilda De Angelis in the role of Soledad is more than a match for this pair.  Whether she's throwing up in the back seat of the car or crying over her sex tape (she sleeps with a screenwriter - it's an old joke), Soledad easily holds her own against these two drama queens. 
Lorenzo Richelmy, Matilda De Angelis, and Eugenio Franceschini

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