CORPO CELESTE (Heavenly Body) (director/writer: Alice Rohrwacher; cinematographer: Hélène Louvart; editor: Marco Spoletini; music: Piero Crucitti; cast: Yle Vianello (Marta Ventura), Salvatore Cantalupo (Priest/Don Mario), Anita Caprioli (Rita Ventura), Paola Lavini (Fortunata), Renato Carpentieri (Don Lorenzo), Pasqualina Scuncia (Santa); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Carlo Cresto-Dina; Film Movement; 2011-Italy/France/Switzerland-in Italian with English subtitles)
“A heavenly coming-of-age film.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Alice Rohrwacher (“Checosamanca“) uses a handheld camera in her feature arthouse narrative film debut as she helms and writes a heavenly coming-of-age film. The social drama notes how hypercritical and empty the church dogma is as it’s woven into everyday family life. The bored but ambitious small-town priest (Salvatore Cantalupo) is in charge of indoctrinating the town with church dogma. He’s more interested in making an impression on his bishop to get a transfer to a more important church than concerned with his working-class parish, as he busies himself collecting the rent on the buildings owned by the church and is also involved in some shady electioneering for church endorsed candidates.
Caring single mom Rita Ventura (Anita Caprioli) returns to stay with relatives in her native Calabria, an industrial area in southern Italy, after ten years living in Switzerland with her almost thirteen-year-old pensive daughter Marta (Yle Vianello) and her eighteen-year-old grounded but pushy daughter Rosa. The worn-out Mom works long hours in a bakery and comes home exhausted. The blonde, Marta, perceived as an outsider, attends confirmation classes at the church. Marta is put off by the uninspired religious lessons that are far removed from life, lessons that are given by the meaning-well but ineffective teacher Santa (Pasqualina Scuncia).
The gist of the film is viewed through Marta’s innocent eyes as she interacts with her family, with her peers, the priest and the teacher. Marta takes it all in but the quiet girl with a rebel streak is unable to put it together how to find her own way in the world, that is, until the third act when she accompanies the priest to his nearby country hometown to pick up in abandoned church a crucifix. There she wrestles with trying to comprehend what Jesus was all about when he uttered on the cross “Why have you forsaken me?” She decides to follow her own destiny as she rejects the conventional teaching of Jesus as a sentimental goody-goody and believes he was a misunderstood visionary who was pissed that others did not understand him and his ability to perform miracles. These are the thoughts uttered by an old priest she encounters at the abandoned church. It’s a scene that is so wonderfully powerful that it could have been filmed by the great Tarkovsky.
The pic’s photography adds more power to the story, especially that shot of the local priest walking in the deserted city streets of Calabria with the strong wind blowing the trash in front of him.
REVIEWED ON 10/22/2012 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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