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The Venice Film Critics' Week is an independent section of the Venice International Film Festival organized by the Union of Italian Film Critics (SNCCI). The program traditionally gets a second run in Rome during the Autumn months.
The annual series fosters independent and free-thinking filmmakers, often showcasing the work of new talent, and this year is no different. The 2020 program includes a selection of seven debut films in competition and two special events out of competition. Looking over the Italian films, I found some intriguing projects by filmmakers of all ages and backgrounds. Among them is Edgardo Pistone’s short film, “Le mosche” (The Flies). I was immediately drawn to the black and white images, which reflect both nostalgia and viridity. Critics are already comparing the film to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s work, and I can understand why. The poetry of Naples, where it was shot, and the aloofness of the boys brings to mind Pasolini’s “Accattone” as well as Federico Fellini’s “I vitelloni” and “Il bidone.”
The dialogue in the version that I watched is in Neapolitan dialect with some Italian subtitles. Watching the film reminded me of an old David Lynch quote: “Film is a picture and sound working together. Dialogue has its own way of working and it can be like music.” That is how I found this 15-minute film – like watching verses and choruses. You can feel something significant coming at the end but there is not a definitive structure. That’s where it calls on the nostalgia of auteurs like Pasolini and Fellini. I had a similar experience when watching Fellini’s “The Clowns.” There is this feeling of following the protagonists during a day in their lives. You are not with them. Instead, you are outside looking in. There is an air of abandon, yet you become invested in the characters. Like Moraldo, Alberto and Fausto in “I vitelloni,” they are aloof yet relatable.
With that said, the film follows four mischievous teenage boys on the streets of Naples and their unlikely acquaintanceship with a local named Fiore as he endures their shenanigans. Often on the receiving end of the boys trickery, Fiore nevertheless grows fond of them and welcomes their attention. But boys being boys, they take his affection for granted and one of their pranks too far.
Born in Naples in 1990, Pistone developed an interest in cinema during his high school years. He studied his craft at the acclaimed Accademia di Belle Arti of Naples. Upon graduating, he began working as a director, photographer and screenwriter, and also started teaching filmmaking on the outskirts of Naples. That experience, teaching and talking about film with youngsters, is what ultimately led to the inspiration behind this film. “I received a call to participate in discussions about cinema for a couple of afternoons a week. For me, talking about cinema and making cinema is the same thing and I couldn't resist. And from those discussions, this long and tiring journey was born. I say tiring because the boys in the film had my same distrust in adults. But once they were involved in the project, they did not stop and further validated this newfound trust with great affection and great professionalism," Pistone recounted.
Fascinated by this story, I asked him a few questions about the project. He told me that while his experience growing up in Naples was the foundation for the film, he didn’t want the film to be a Neapolitan tale. “In this film, I tried to stage my adolescence. I was born and raised in Naples and I try to make films in my city while avoiding the common places that are now increasingly present in the contents produced here,” he explained. Avoiding Italian stereotypes is also important to him. “In my movies, you will not see spaghetti, camorra or mandolins. The story of ‘Le mosche’ could have been set in North Africa, Eastern Europe or the United States. I also tried not to frame Vesuvius, but from the sea it is inevitable and therefore you can see it and I was happy.”
Regarding the iconic comparisons, he takes a humble stance. “For those who love cinema, talking about Pasolini or Fellini is like talking to a believer of God, and the faithful try to associate any event with this God. Having said that, I was certainly influenced by the authors of the past: especially Fellini. Fellini is paradoxically the director who most represented Italy while staging his interior landscapes, giving us a more complex and fascinating picture of reality during those years. Many other directors have tried, but have not left a mark like him. I am not a cinephile. I’ve missed some things, including some Pasolini films that I’ve yet to see, but when I see "Accattone" I understand why people see something of Pasolini in my films.”
Certainly the black and white aspect prompts echoes of the past. When I asked him about the significance of making this creative decision, he said that he believes the black and white representation can be the most daring artistic reworking of reality. “It is one of many instruments used to make cinema and to restore other visions of reality. Shaping, translating and rewriting puts me in a position to offer a show, which is my first goal when I try to write a film.”
Naples-born character actor Salvatore Striano makes a brilliant cameo appearance as a street performer. Pistone said that their collaboration came natural as the two share the same struggles and desires to perfect their craft.
It’s too early to say when "Le Mosche" will be available worldwide. Perhaps it will be among the Festival Scope streaming offerings. We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I recommend checking out Pistone’s 2014 short, “Per un’ora di amore” (For One Hour of Love). I found this film to be very dark, so it’s not for the faint of heart. The subject deals with severe loneliness and the measures one will take to feel wanted and loved. Pistone describes it as “a free and anarchist film.” He shot the film in the neighborhood of Rione Traiano. He describes it as "an ode to melancholy and the tenacity of loneliness." Click here to watch it on Vimeo.
Rione Traiano was also the location of Agostino Ferrente’s award-winning 2019 “Selfie.” Pistone was the assistant director on the film. Click here to stream it on Vimeo On Demand.
Click here to check out the full lineup of the 2020 Venice Film Critics' Week, which runs September 2 - 12.
“Fellini is paradoxically the director who most represented Italy while staging his interior landscapes, giving us a more complex and fascinating picture of reality during those years."
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