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FILMS / REVIEWS Italy

Review: Cobra non è

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- The film debut of music video director Mauro Russo is a black, Tarantino-style comedy without a flicker of originality, available now on Amazon Prime Video in Italy

Review: Cobra non è
Federico Rosati in Cobra non è

Fans of déjà vu and excesses, of outdated Italian genre films and black comedy, of dried-up pulp and the type of entertainment that doesn’t require too many braincells amidst the audiovisual orgy that is lockdown, will find themselves revelling in Cobra non è [+see also:
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, Mauro Russo’s feature film debut which was due for cinema release via 102 Distribution, but which was instead made available on Amazon Prime Video in Italy on Thursday 30 April as a result of the Covid-19 emergency.

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The films intentions are fairly clear: in recounting the misadventures of Cobra - the young rapper from the periphery whose artistic star is on the wane (lent the familiar face of Gianluca Di Gennaro, Gomorrah: Season 2) - and his friend-manager (Federico Rosati) who, in order to finance Cobra’s return to the music scene, must deliver a briefcase of mysterious contents, the director is looking to spend 86 minutes nudging and winking at viewers who know by heart the filmography of a certain world-famous American director and producer who hails from Tennessee yet carries an Italian surname. The result, however, isn’t quite so clear-cut: newcomer screenwriters Alessandro Giglio, Ivan Specchio and Angelo Petrella have channelled all their creative juices into punctuating the story with episodes of black comedy by way of a series of journeys backwards and forwards in time, introduced by various “title cards” whose indications range from “7 years earlier” to “7 seconds later”. It all unfolds within a merry form of pastiche which is a blatant imitation of other authors’ style, but whose effects are diametrically opposed to those produced by the meticulous writing style of the afore-mentioned American director.

Here’s what you need to know about this film: the opening credits are good-looking and creative; the two protagonists visit a handful of nocturnal venues awash with neon lights and half-naked lap-dancers; all the characters speak in a manufactured, unnatural language, creating a sense of disorientation; virtually all the film’s dialogue begins with “listen” and there are two long, heated discussions, one on the virtues of rap versus 1890s music, and the other – between police offers – on the strengths of rap versus blues, funk, jazz, tango and mazurka; there’s an eccentric dj-come-producer and a Romany camp full of old colourful caravans; the Balkan baddies speak perfect Italian with a Balkan accent and tell funny Balkan stories before breaking people’s fingers, while the baddy from the Far East has a mouth full of silver teeth and smiles before firing his gun; in one scene, four characters point a gun at one another’s heads, and the central, violent shoot-out scene takes the form of animation (by Domenico Velletri); several bullets are filmed in slow motion, there are killers wearing wolf masks and the same scene is repeated from an alternative viewpoint; Denise Capezza licks the barrel of a gun before aiming it at the baddie and there’s a crazy ecoterrorist girl wielding a baseball bat and wearing bunches, Harley Quinn style; last but not least, there’s a scene where a guy is tied to a chair while a sadist tortures him with a razor to the sounds of 1960s rock music. Well-known musicians such as Elisa, Max Pezzali, Clementino and Tonino Carotone also appear (and act) in the film.

Mauro Russo is a music video director whose works have been viewed millions of times on youtube, having been produced for some of the most famous artists on the Italian hip hop and pop music scene. His film direction is ostensibly refined and attentive, but to the point of overwhelming any possible substance. And this signals a lack of fusion between film language and that of music videos; it underlines the importance and difficulty of reviving exemplary narrative material through new aesthetic forms; and, arguably, it reminds us once again of the solitude suffered by authors and the impossibility of being original.

Cobra non è (the title references an old Donatella Rettore song) is produced by Giallo Limone Movie alongside Rai Cinema, with the backing of Mibact and the Apulia Film Commission. 102 Distribution are also selling the film worldwide.

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(Translated from Italian)

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