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Ignorant Fairies

Director: Ferzan Ozpetek

Italy-France| 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 106 mins.


Born in Turkey but now living and working in Italy, Ferzan Ozpetek has emerged as one of European cinema’s most successful auteurs. His quietly impressive feature debut, Hamam (1997), about an Italian man’s discovery of his latent homosexuality on a visit to Istanbul, was a surprise art-house hit. Ozpetek faltered slightly with his follow-up, Harem Square (1999), a languorous study of a woman trapped in a harem at the end of the Ottoman Empire. But he hit the bull’s-eye again with his two recent Italian productions, Ignorant Fairies and Facing Window, the first of which is now receiving a belated Irish release.
Each of Ozpetek’s films are about self-discovery that’s prompted by an encounter with a culture which is foreign or new to the chief protagonist. In Hamam, the Turkish bath provides the site for erotic and emotional revelations. In Ignorant Fairies, the discovery has to do with secrets from the past. The film opens with a portrait of the seemingly healthy 15-year marriage of the middle-class Antonia (Margherita Buy) and Massimo (Andrea Renzi). When Massimo is killed in a car accident, Antonia is plunged into grief and at first withdraws from the world. Delving into her husband’s past, she is shocked to discover that he was conducting a double life with a long-term male lover. Determined to know more about the affair, Antonia uncovers a small sub-culture that forms an alternative kind of ‘family’ to the bourgeois model she has always known. Perhaps the key to Ozpetek’s success, apart from his skill with actors and a seemingly effortless technical mastery, has to do with his respect for different lifestyles and attitudes. The films are anything but didactic, but neither are they predictable or conservative. Ozpetek’s attention to the minutiae of social behaviour is impressive, but as Ignorant Fairies again demonstrates, his main focus is on the individual’s search for that sense of peace that comes with self-knowledge.-

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