DISAPPEARANCE OF MY MOTHER, THE (Storia di B. – La scomparsa di mia madre)

(director/writer: Beniamino Barrese; cinematographer: Beniamino Barrese; editor: Valentina Cicogna; music: Aaron Cupples; cast: Benedetta , Beniamino Barrese, Lauren Hutton; Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Filippo Macelloni, Beniamino Barrese; Kino Lorber; 2019-Italy-in English & Italian, with English subtitles)

I think it makes good viewing for the filmmaker’s therapist. If he doesn’t have one I think he should get one.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First-time Italian director Beniamino Barrese makes this strange obsession-driven documentary about filming his mother Benedetta Barzini against her wishes. She was a supermodel in the 1960s, the first to be on the cover of Vogue Italia and a regular at Warhol’s Factory. She became a muse to Warhol, Dali, Pen and Avedonbut, and was engaged to Gerard Malanga. In the 1970s she became a feminist and Marxist critic of her own profession and of images and movies (believing they were lies). As a social activist, journalist and a college professor, she fought for the rights and emancipation of women. At age 75 she decides to leave everything and everybody behind, to disappear to an unknown and remote island. This worries her adult son.

Her clutching photographer son witnesses her daily movements and films her secretly, not wanting to lose her and hopes to preserve her memories through these images, while she tells her boy that she “hates memories.” When she discovers him filming her she objects at times, calling him out as a “petty bourgeois,” while at other times is cool with it. He even films mom when she sleeps or goes to the bathroom. Beniamino was born after her supermodel glory days, and she never told him about her past fame until he discovered it on his own.

The ongoing battle ensuing over making the movie between mother and son makes one ask why film someone you love if the loved one doesn’t want to be filmed, even if you have a sound reason for making it. Ultimately she allows her son to make the film because she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings.

I think it makes good viewing for the filmmaker’s therapist. If he doesn’t have one I think he should get one. It’s weird and creepy, and makes for uncomfortable viewing. But it’s a different kind of perverted film, one that includes interesting riffs on philosophical questions about beauty, capitalism, love, life, and death. It left me in the end mostly agreeing with the vaping mom, especially when she tells sonny boy “what truly matters, is always invisible.”

REVIEWED ON 11/27/2019   GRADE: B   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/