Credits: Directed by Giuliano Montaldo and starring Pierfrancesco Favino, Francesco Scianna, Carolina Crescentini, Elisabetta Piccolomini, Eduard Gabia, Elena Di Cioccio, Andrea Tidona and Mauro Pirovano.
Details: 94 mins, Italy,
Synopsis: Factory owner Nicola Ranieri (Pierfrancesco Favino) is struggling both professionally and emotionally. The banks are foreclosing and pride has taken him to the brink of ruin as he refuses to use his wife’s wealth and family name as a guarantor against further loans. He is just days away from bankruptcy unless the German company Zenith confirms the fifteen million euro share option deal. But Nicola (Carolina Crescentini) also suspects his beautiful architect wife is having an affair. Following her, he discovers a regular rendezvous with Gabriel (Eduard Gabia), a Romanian musician and car park attendant. Attempting to secretly help her husband financially, Laura finds herself instead at the centre of Nicola’s intense jealousy.
A modest, old-fashioned morality crisis.
A rich movie parable that’s unapologetically stylised.
ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL: The Turin in The Entrepreneur is a bleak, hopeless place. It looks like some great force has come along and swept away all sense of life. The streets are empty. Even the buildings, old, once grand, seem to hold no life. The feeling that arises from all this is grief. We’re bearing witness to a kind of death. But the characters here will not go to an end without a desperate struggle.
The plot is about fighting back; taking a stand. It’s another film in a growing sub-genre that concerns itself with the pitiless consequences of the GFC. But it’s also about a marriage and a fear of failure. Directed by Giuliano Montaldo with the restless paranoid urgency of a moody thriller, The Entrepreneur has an old-fashioned morality, almost Biblical in its conviction that the twin sins of pride and avarice can only lead to tragedy and ruin. Still, the script advances the now unfashionable idea that no matter what foibles that are unique to the characters, they are, in the end, subject to forces far more powerful – economic, social, cultural.
The action at first focuses on Nicola (Pierfrancesco Favino), owner of a small factory. Handsome and heavily bearded, always exquisitely attired, well mannered, avuncular, and a nominal member of Turin’s privileged classes, we first meet him as he makes a plea to a banker for a loan. In a blunt but trenchant irony, this scene is set in banking chambers so outsized and palatial, it makes the drama reminiscent of those beats in old Hollywood films where the hero must suffer the indignity of proving himself worthy in order to secure the king’s patronage. And just like those characters of a bygone era, Nicola leaves his meeting seething with resentment.
Nicola inherited his once prosperous business from his dead father. But it’s now hemorrhaging cash. He is struggling to make the monthly payroll. When the bank refuses the loan, it sets forth a chain of events that lead Nicola to commit to an increasingly reckless sequence of actions – from corporate chicanery to outright larceny. But the script by Andrea Purgatori and Montaldo provides Nicola with a way out… but it is not a chance he is prepared to take.
Laura (Carolina Crescentini), Nicola’s wife, is one of Turin’s elite. Beautiful and loving, she is, thanks to her Mama and Papa’s legacy, extraordinarily rich and therefore well positioned to rescue Nicola’s business. But Nicola rejects the idea. Mostly because, no matter what the subtleties are, Nicola understands that such a solution means that Laura’s mother will have a controlling interest in the factory. And that Nicola will not allow. This conflict creates a fracture in the marriage, and once this point is made, the film’s narrative splits into two competing plotlines with it; as Nicola races around in a panic, lying about his schemes at every turn to all, we see Laura, sensitive to Nicola’s ego, quietly and carefully conspire to keep the factory a float. But she has resentments
This mutual deceit leads to further complications. Laura, feeling the strain of a marriage that’s coming apart, seeks comfort and emotional support from an attractive young man, a Romanian immigrant called Gabriel (Eduard Gabia). When Nicola discovers this – and what he immediately believes is a betrayal – he becomes enraged.
Short, tough and intelligent, The Entrepreneur is a rich movie parable that’s unapologetically stylised and melodramatic (in the best way). It has an emotional energy and conviction that sucks you in and lets you forget just what a conceit the plot actually is. And that is of course a good thing. Its moral urgency derives from the belief that the simple act of talking about what we must endure to a loved one, like a husband or wife, cannot compete with the burdens of surviving in a world driven by money.
The performances are all strong; I especially liked Elisabetta Piccolomini, as Laura’s mama. She’s got enough snide superiority to light up a small city.
Shot in a palette so bleed of colour it feels black and white, The Entrepreneur has a funereal mood. It is a thing of mourning. It’s arrogant enough to position its tale as a cautionary one. I don’t want to overrate it. Artistically, it is a modest movie. It will be for some perhaps, too savage, too out to make a point. But it’s thoughtful and haunting. In an age of glib rationalists, I’m prepared to accept a howl of protest and pain any day.
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