Friends by Chance: Memory, poetry and generations compared
by Vittoria Scarpa
- Giuliano Montaldo and first-time actor Andrea Carpenzano star in the latest film by Francesco Bruni, which had its world premiere at Bari's Bif&st and hits Italian theatres on 11 May
His father’s illness, moving to the Trastevere neighbourhood of Rome, the book of a former student of his at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia: all these things combined led Francesco Bruni to create Friends by Chance [+see also:
film profile], his third film as director, a particularly heartfelt piece that mixes autobiographical elements and novel-esque invention, the war in the Appennines and typical Roman idleness, comparing two generations, that of the youth of today and that of their grandparents, with endearment and polite humour.
Screened in its world premiere at the 8th Bif&st of Bari (22-29 April), the latest film by this highly dynamic screenwriter (who has written screenplays for Virzì, Calopresti, Molaioli, and many others), who also previously stepped behind the camera to make Easy! [+see also:
film profile] and Noi 4 [+see also:
film profile], centres around an original pairing of actors: Giuliano Montaldo, the 87-year-old veteran director of Sacco e Vanzetti in his film acting debut, and an absolute first-timer, 21-year-old Roman actor Andrea Carpenzano. The former plays Giorgio, a long-forgotten poet in is 80s who has fallen victim to Alzheimer’s; the latter is Alessandro, a 23-year-old layabout who spends his days at the bar with his friends and seducing the beautiful tobacconist of the neighbourhood (played by Donatella Finocchiaro). Forced by his father (Antonio Gerardi), the boy reluctantly accepts a job accompanying Giorgio on his afternoon walks in the park and through the streets of Trastevere, where they both live.
The encounter/clash between two worlds and generations so far apart gives rise to plenty of comedy and irony. Alessandro enters the life of this sophisticated gentleman and somewhat turns it upside down: him and his friends invade his home, making him enjoy himself, smoke, drink and play on the PlayStation. Giorgio’s Alzheimer’s is portrayed with affection, bringing out the illness’ funnier side: the elderly gentleman can’t get anyone’s name right, frequently commits faux pas, and seems to live in another era. And it is from another era, that of the Second World War, that some of his memories re-surface, setting off a treasure hunt in the truest sense of the term. Loosely based on the book Poco più di niente by Cosimo Calamini (published by Garzanti), there comes a point at which the film indeed deviates from the book, becoming a road movie with the hunt for a “gift” from the Americans left to Giorgio over seventy years previously in the heart of the Apennine mountains bridging Tuscany and Emilia. An exciting adventure with obviously unexpected outcomes.
But this is a film that won’t just make you smile. Written entirely by Bruni, there are plenty of heart-rending junctures, but the director never overly insists on these, and dramatic moments are always followed by more light-hearted ones: “This is a film that keeps you on your toes throughout”, explains the director, who also took his inspiration for the screenplay from the memories of his father as a teenager in Pisa with the American soldiers, “I was scared of emphasis, so I followed the rule of always going against the feelings you’ve just stirred in the audience”. A film about memory and the dialogue between the generations, the crowning moment of which is when the young protagonist shows he’s taken on board the teachings of the elderly poet, and does so without rhetoric, with the laid-back tone that characterises the entire film.
(Translated from Italian)
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