They say those who can’t do, teach. Our nameless slacker is a substitute teacher. People thought he had a brilliant career ahead of him, but it didn’t pan out. Most days, if you asked him, he would say it was everyone’s fault but his own. However, he probably wouldn’t be able to hear the question today, because he woke up with an incessant ringing in his ears. Yet, somehow this nettlesome development might finally spur him to get his act together in Alessandro Aronadio’s Ears (trailer here), which screens during Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2017.
After waking in his long-suffering girlfriend’s flat with said auditory ringing, the sad sack protagonist finds a note from the indulgent Alice regretfully informing him his friend Luigi passed away. Since he cannot remember any friends named Luigi, the news is more baffling than distressing for him. Over the course of an uncharacteristically busy day, he will try to have his ears treated, make a favorable impression in a long-shot interview, and figure out who Luigi was. However, he will be plagued by a series of mildly surreal misadventures.
Initially, Ears is oppressively quirky, in a way that flatters itself into thinking it is dark and edgy. The weird, boxy aspect ratio similarly feels like a gimmick. About the only redeeming feature is Francesco Di Giacomo’s ultra-chic Bruce Webber-esque black-and-white cinematography. Yet, seemingly out of nowhere, the film locks in during the third act, delivering some highly compelling and shockingly truthful scenes. Let’s face it, you can’t get much edgier than a brooding main character who decides to take responsibility for his life.
After moping through several interminable wannabe Fellini-esque sequences, Daniele Parisi knocks it out of the park in the big pay-off scenes. He also develops some complicated but endearing chemistry with Alice, played with realistic but engaging charm by Silvia D’Amico. The problem is, we have to sit through a lot of shticky over-the-top mugging to get there.