Bang Bang, I Shot You Down

in 24th Ljubljana International Film Festival

by Radmila Djurica

Amid the great variety that made up the film programme of the 24th Ljubljana International Film Festival LIFFE, Italian films slightly dominated the festival – not in terms of the number of Italian titles, but by their quality.

The main Kingfisher Award of LIFFE in Ljubljana, selected by the jurists Lordan Zafranovic, Tiziana Finzi and Nejc Gazvoda, went to the Italian film that the festival’s FIPRESCI jury also chose to award: the marvellous Honey (Miele), directed by Valeria Golino. It’s a wonderful, visually stunning film about a modern angel of death offering an easy way out – the necessary drugs for dying. The film offers a contemporary debut about the necessity of (un)official euthanasia. Then of course there was Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (Le Grande Bellezza), a film out of competition – but equally attractive – about the Rome portrayed in La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini. And also, a film screened that the audience liked a lot, which received the Audience Award at Venice this year: Matteo Oleotto’s Italian-Slovenian co-production Zoran, My Idiot Nephew (Zoran, il mio nipote scemo), an honest and witty account of two different worlds merging together in all their eccentricities and attractions. All the films displayed the usual Italian cynical attitude, irresistible charm and bitter lucidity.

The top FIPRESCI award winner of the festival was the dialogue-sparse Italian film Salvo, directed and written by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza, which won the Grand Prix and the Visionary Award at this year’s Cannes. It is a magnificent interplay of the different genres of spaghetti western and noir, and a celebration of filmmaking skills, which brings up unexpected themes.

An excursion into the world of the Sicilian mafia, this film noir is about about moody and unexpected modern love, which brings up the subject of miracles. The primary genre of the film is the thriller, with stunning Salvo a mafia assassin. He hunts down blind Rita’s brother Renato, kills the man and takes Rita to an abandoned factory, where he keeps her captive. However, something strange happens between them, and the film takes an unexpected turn.

The house of Rita and her brother Renato is all in shadow, noir-style. Salvo hunts, and hunts well, in a wonderful extended, bloodless prologue, from a low angle and long shots. Then – bang, bang – Renato is dead in a darkened house, on a beautiful beach. There is trouble in paradise, in beautiful Sicily and that is it! “We especially agreed on the idea of playing with different genres, not only in terms of story but also with its cinematic representation. The noir, first of all the mise-en-scene of the house of Rita, as a house of shadows is an intentional use of the genre, and Daniele Cipri is the Italian master of chiaroscuro,” the authors said. The entire atmospheric picture of noir at the beginning and spaghetti western at the end does continuously fascinate on a visceral level. Grassadonia and Piazza have created something that mirrors modern love, bringing up a beautiful Palermo onto a global platform without extra glamour involved, in order to picture gritty life and the poverty that is part of reality, rarely seen in the Italy depicted in cinema. With the help of deserted landscapes in presenting an epic of mafia war in Sicily, Piazza and Grassadonia toy with a spaghetti western setting and wonderful visual images. A few old techniques that now seem to be all brand new, thanks to the authors.

Edited by Carmen Gray