Saturday, May 01, 2010

Tribeca ’10: Loose Cannons

Tommaso Cantone has two bombshells to drop on his family: he is gay and wants to quit the family pasta business to become a writer. The latter will only be slightly less scandalous to the traditional Cantone patriarch than the former. Unfortunately, a funny thing happens on the way to Tommaso’s coming out in Turkish-born Italian film director Ferzan Ozpetek’s Loose Cannons (trailer here), which was awarded the Special Jury Mention in the World Narrative Competition at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Tommaso wants out of the Cantone family business. He has his literary aspirations and a lover waiting faithfully in Rome. He realizes coming out will result in irreparable break with his father, particularly in such an embarrassing forum—a formal dinner to celebrate the Cantone merger with another powerful corporate family. However, much to everyone’s surprise, especially Tommaso’s, his brother Antonio beats him to the punch.

With his father suffering a heart attack shortly banishing Antonio, Tommaso finds himself stuck in the life he was trying to avoid. Obviously conflicted in this role, he develops a strangely intimate platonic relationship with Alba, the emotionally damaged daughter of their new business partners.

As befitting a big Italian family, the Cantones supply plenty of subplots, some of which work better than others. The Grandmother’s mysterious past is an intriguing framing device, beautifully realized by Ozpetek and cinematographer Maurizio Calvesi. Perhaps the strongest scenes involve the ambiguous friendship between Tommaso and Alba. Unfortunately, when Marco and three friends are forced to “play it straight” while visiting Tomasso, Cannons basically recycles old La Cage Aux Folles material that just seems awkward and dated here.

While several of Ozpetek’s recent films, like A Perfect Day and Facing Windows, have been almost oppressively tragic, the mood of Cannons is much lighter, more bittersweet than unremittingly sorrowful. It is a welcome change. While there is heartbreak in Cannons, there is also love (romantic and familial) as well as hope, just like real life.

Ironically given the subject matter, the head-and-shoulders standout in the cast is the beautiful Nicole Grimaudo as Alba. Tempestuous and vulnerable, it is a highly nuanced, fully dimensional performance. She also shares real screen chemistry with Ricardo Scamarcio, who brings an earnest likability to Tomasso.

Balancing laughter and tears quite adeptly, Ozpetek mostly hits the right marks throughout Cannons. The picturesque locations in and around the Italian town of Lecce also set a nice La Dolce Vita vibe, which is never a bad thing. It screens again tonight (5/1) at the Tribeca Film Festival.