by Daniel Engelke
Showing in New York City for a 2-week engagement (June 22-July 5, 2011) at Film Forum.
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John Turturro’s odd but enchanting musical journey, Passione, further examines the many mysterious facets of American cinema. Known best for his wide-variety of acting roles with the Coen brothers (Barton Fink , O Brother, Where Art Thou? ) Turturro is also comfortable behind the camera, and for Passione, the Brooklyn native once again draws on elements from his own Italian background similar to the 2005 film Romance & Cigarettes, his last directorial effort and a proclaimed musical-comedy-drama-romance-you-name-it.
Passione immerses viewers almost instantaneously with the weighty, but enjoyable, “Vesuvio.” The moving ballad’s title coincides perfectly as our first image of Italy’s southern city, Naples, is engulfed in emotional passione. Turturro proceeds to introduce the film’s ironic but Neopolitan musical homage (“I love you today, but tomorrow it might be your sister”) followed by an explosion of audio entertainment.
Tallying up to sixteen songs, the melodic movie can astonish and afflict. Though most of Passione’s history and myths are captivating and well-researched, their enjoyment becomes blotted out by the heavy Italian ballads. All of the numbers are performed at their highest quality, but, like the director’s previous film, the sheer amount of music can be wearing. Turturro hits best when he allows his audience a short interlude and not an encore.
While I’m unsure how Passione will do stateside, it is guaranteed enjoyment for fans of Italian music and culture or simply Turturro, who makes a few short but very sweet appearances. While the film has moments of weight, it is almost always delightful and truly made with a strong sense of passione.
Daniel Engelke is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s Film & Video program. He resides in New York as a freelance writer and videographer. With expertise in French & British New Wave Cinema and Italian Neo-Realism, Daniel also works as a director and intern for Edward Bass Films.
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