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January 27, 2023

Homo ridens (II)

Courageous and salvaging unexpectedly becomes a shy and naive illegalist, justice-making appetence is found in a versatile underworld musician and obsolete virtues regain their charm behind a kitsch aesthetics. All this time the super-policemen are almost dehumanised and nepotism rests the essence of the system.
‘The Fifth Wheel’ directed by Giovanni Veronesi is also a satire that promotes candour beyond political tribulations. The plain protagonist is always close to a scandal, but he remains morally immune for nobody takes him seriously and, whilst his values are simple, they are nevertheless consistent. He has not become involved with left-wing terrorism of general corruption, neither has he militated for a new political marketing for Berlusconi. He had one last major temptation, typical for his condition as an impoverished petty-bourgeois – the lottery – but he understood that his change was exactly to be able to live through so many hilarious and even degrading situations without becoming stained.

Among so many comedies, the latest Italian Oscar winner, `La grande bellezza` by Paolo Sorrentino could have not been missing. Discretely grotesque characters, ambiguously hilarious situations, a counterpointed rhythm of tragicomedy, a notable dose of self-persiflation – here are the arguments for such a framing. Especially since the described would cannot take itself too seriously without undermining itself. The kitsch itself gains noblesse if it is inventively created and is given the aura of a sophisticated candour. As a matter of fact, the relationship between the comical comfort and the traces of candour remains fertile.
‘Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed’, directed by David Trueba, speaks not just of the moralist and puritan obsessions of the Franco age (always suggested in the background), or of the liberating, pop culture shaping virtues (present here through John Lennon and the lyrics of The Beatles), but also of the lost and refound humanity of fragile human beings. A provincial, unmarried teacher, a single young woman with an unwanted pregnancy, an adolescent terrorised by the authoritarianism of a policeman father and an old man abandoned by the mother of their retarded son  – add to a dusty world the fresh touches of otherwise hard to imagine connections (although the erotic ramifications are not some of the most convincing).
But there is also the inversed movement, from comic to tragic, like in the film of Pierre Salvadori, ’In the Courtyard’, where the formerly successful singer good-natured fellow anonymously survives as an affable doorman, in a radical self denial. What looked like a kind comedy actually slides into the drama of a failed existential therapy. In the background – the often ignored seriousness of mental derailments specific for the old age, which can in no time develop from benignancy into true implosions.
A special mention deserves `Swimm Little Fish Swimm` by Ruben Amar and Lola Bessis, a sort of an indie tale, garnished with the ambient of alternative cultural New York circles, combining communitarian pretensions with a discreet underground anarchism and a partly hippie pedagogy. Beyond (aesthetical and existential) improvisation, what convinces is just the affective musicality of life, always against the grain of the show of failure.

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