Details: 80 mins , Italy,
Synopsis: When a 13-year-old girl (Carla Marchese) announces the Madonna appeared to her in a dream and revealed the location of the statue’s head, her mother (Donatello Finocchiaro) becomes determined to make a lot of money from her daughter's vision.
Opportunity missed among miracle mayhem.
ITALIAN FILM FESTVAL: Roberta Torre’s Lost Kisses commences with shots of a ramshackle Italian piazza in a housing estate, where an expectant crowd gazes upwards with excitement and behind them others mill about. The gauze layer over the camera seems like less of an effect than a flaw, but when the director cuts away to reveal a statue of the Madonna being unveiled (that is Mary, the mother of Jesus, and not the pop star), you realise the opening was a point of view shot from the Madonna’s perspective, beneath the ceremonial sheet.
That’s an odd but deliberate choice: the idea of what we see, and what might or might not be inanimate, bubble away in this busy, if somewhat digressive and slight, comedy. When some teenage boys playing football on a balmy Sicilian evening accidentally decapitate the statue with a wayward pass, they panic and hide the severed head in the basement storage room of an apartment block. But it’s discovered in sensational circumstances when a local girl, carefree 13-year-old Manuela (Carla Marchese), announces that the Madonna came to her in a dream and revealed the location of her statue’s head. When she’s proven right everything changes.
Torre sees rich comic potential in Manuela’s insight. It doesn’t matter if it’s legitimate, a whisper of a miracle stirs the entire community, and soon reverent crowds are gathering in the family’s apartment, where Manuela’s brassy blonde mother (Donatella Finocchiaro) feuds with her unemployed husband (Beppe Fiorillo) and enables her older daughter, who in turn happily steals from her mother. Seeing a step up from running a dry cleaning business, the matriarch is soon modestly receiving cash gifts in exchange for access to her daughter.
The ripeness of faith is an easy target in Italy, but Torre does it with satirical pleasure. The lackadaisical Manuela, who likes music and boys, is given a makeover by her mother and local priest – imagine casual Friday at a nunnery – and she docilely sits in seclusion, seeing those with an appointment, who invariably ask for ludicrous deliverance. (One mother wants to fulfil her son’s dream of appearing on Italian Big Brother.) Manuela makes no promises, in fact she barely speaks, but her presence offers hope, and that’s all it takes to get people excited. Belief in miracles is a sign of a population in despair. Snatching at the fantastic, Torre suggests, is inevitable when the social system is rundown and devoid of possibility.
The movie doesn’t press its points with too much vigour, gradually settling on the confused child behind the alienating process; Manuela is delighted and embarrassed when her father, previously banished by her mother, queues to visit her. Marchese, a screen debutant, has an open, communicative face and an everyday intimacy with the camera: she’s never acting, or trying to not look like she’s acting. It sits in fitting contrast to the busy comic performance of Finocchiaro, whose delight at her sudden elevation to mother of a potential saint has her enjoying ever more ludicrous outfits and an affair with the mayor.
The design mixes the rundown southern Italian locales with great slabs of production design colour: a hairdressing salon is like some heavenly boudoir, where the creation of big hair – “you just grew 10 centimetres,” whispers the hairdresser, Viola – is an equally spiritual task. There’s hints of early Almodovar in this world of emotive matriarchs, gaudy flourishes and peculiar instances of faith, and while the filmmaker doesn’t pursue the full potential in the story, which becomes a coming of age tale, instances of technical innovation give full vent to the mood. One arrival of Manuela is reduced to just the breathing of those expectantly awaiting her. You hear faithful sighs and desperate panting, and it’s as otherworldly as a point of view shot from a statue of the Madonna.
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