Posted: 03/24/2009

 

Love in the Age of Dion – Is Really For Any Age

by Annie Vinton




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Set in 1992 in the Bronx, Love In The Age of Dion tells the story of Frankie Razzini (Jerry Ferris) who returns home after 25 years in search of reliving and mending the past. Drama ensues when secrets of an old love, Carol (Marta Milans) are revealed between him and his “best” friend Eddie (Todd Engle.) Neighborhood gal, Brenda (Christina Romanello), an introspective young woman finds herself caught in the crossfire along with her more lighthearted friend Carmel (Bridget Trama.)

Love in the Age of Dion, inspired by the innocence and transition of teens into adulthood during the 1960’s is a character driven film based on the play with the same name. The stage version ran for eight months at the Belmont Italian-American Theater in the Bronx, once a pool hall which coincidentally legendary music sensation Dion DiMucci, named in the title, was rumored to visit from time to time.

Writer, director and producer Phil Cioffari, surrounded by a tight knit team, successfully adapted this story from stage to film in seventeen days on a shoestring budget. The story’s setting and the name wasn’t by happenstance as Cioffari grew up in the Parkchester section of the Bronx and recalls Dion as local hero. “There’d be rumors of where he was playing and you’d go. He was an iconic figure.”

Powerful moments were captured by the one camera the film was shot on from the opening scene of Frankie’s subway ride into the Bronx to scenes in the neighborhood bar. These are complemented by authentic dialogue that created a purposeful and definite range of emotions to keep all guessing about the mystery surrounding Frankie and Eddie’s past with Carol and what roles Brenda and Carmel could play in the future. Cioffari chose locations like bar bathrooms for intimate conversations between friends because it’s what he knew. He told me, “I’ve been in those bathrooms.”

The chemistry between the characters is strongest between Ferris and Engle, likely the result that they’ve acted alongside each other in the stage production of this film. Cioffari then hand picked new comer to a lead role on the big screen, Christina Romanello, as Brenda. Up until this point, most of Romanello’s experience has been on the stage. She easily shows her breadth of talent, making a seamless transition from stage to film through dramatic subtleties she brings to the role. Supporting cast members Marta Milans, Jack Ryland and Bridget Trama round out this believable neighborhood gang.

I asked Cioffari the obvious question - “Is this autobiographical?” He told me the characters and story line of Love In the Age of Dion are a compilation of people and events in his life. He also believes he is part Frankie and part Eddie, who are polar opposites in many ways and that most people have both these personalities with one eventually developing more than the other.

There are a few reminders along the way that this is an independent film, but overall, it’s a must see for anyone over the age of thirty or mature enough to understand the complexities of wanting to make amends with the past and finding the strength to move forward without regret. It will also leave the audience pontificating whether they are an Eddie, a Frankie, a Brenda, a Carmel, or maybe a little of each.

This was Cioffari’s first film and following his days in the Bronx, he received a degree at St. John’s, a doctorate in English Literature from NYU and today he’s a professor at William Patterson in New Jersey as well as published author of the novel Catholic Boys and a collection os short stories, A History of Things Lost or Broken. Both are available on www.amazon.com.

To check out Love In The Age of Dion and to meet Cioffari and cast members on Wednesday, March 25th, purchase your $12 tickets on line at www.nyfilmvideo.com. Showtime is 6:10pm at Village East Cinemas.

Annie Vinton is a freelance writer and film critic living in NYC. You can read more about her and her writing here.



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