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THE FAMILY FRIEND

Director: PAOLO SORRENTINO

ITALY-FRANCE • 2006 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 35MM • 102 MIN


The skewed emotions and cool images of The Consequences of Love already announced director Paolo Sorrentino as a director who dares to be different. Indeed, this striking follow-up positively baits the audience by making the central character a loathsome 70-year-old small-time moneylender who puts the squeeze on his unfortunate clients while claiming that he’s got their best interests at heart.
Giacomo Rizzo’s Don Geremia de Geremei is a piece of work all right, but as he skitters around with one arm in a cast and an ever-dangling plastic bag, he’s also one of recent cinema’s most memorable screen characters, totally assured in his worldview that life’s cruel and only the greedy prosper. Until, that is, he meets his match in the statuesque Rosalba (Laura Chiatti), whose father has been reduced to seeking Geremei’s services to pay for her wedding. For the price of a sexual favour, she beats down the interest rate on the loan to a fraction of the quoted 100 percent, and she may not be finished yet.
It’s hard not to squirm when watching the elderly lecher fall on youthful flesh, but Sorrentino’s prepared to hold the viewer at a distance so we can form our own moral assessment of the protagonist’s self-serving imperatives. Moreover, he’s got the visual language to put Geremei’s perceptions in context, whether it’s poring over Fellini-esque grotesquerie, or recalling early Dario Argento in the strangely unsettling architectural exteriors. Cut together to keep us in constant surprise, this is maverick movie-making to be sure. Treasure it while you can. — Trevor Johnston.

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