Matthew Bunkell, from the Picturehouse Customer Service team, writes on this week’s Discover Tuesdays film, Italian crime drama Black Souls (15)
Director: Francesco Munzi.
Starring: Marco Leonardi, Peppino Mazzotta. Italy/France 2014. 109 mins. Italian with English subtitles.
What would a cinematic Italian family be without a little organised crime? With Francesco Munzi’s Black Souls, we are treated to a new, more stripped-back affair – a contrasting strand in the rich history of gangsters on the screen. Straying from the glitzy city life of its peers, this crime saga presents us with a family torn apart in rural Italy.
The story revolves around three brothers: Luigi (Marco Leonardi) the charismatic leather-clad crime lord, Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta) the litigiously minded middle sibling and Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane) the oldest who, unlike the former two, has decided to give up the criminal life altogether for a career in goat herding. However, Luciano is soon thrown back into the mix when his son, Leo (Giuseppe Fumo), decides to follow an inherited path and rekindle a bloody feud that has haunted his family’s past. Frictions between the two factions begin to hit bloodied heights as small but potent pinpricks of violence break the otherwise sombre lives of these pastoral folk.
Set in the Calabrian countryside and gorgeously shot by cinematographer Vladan Radovic, Munzi’s gangster film – while weaving together familiar themes of family and honour – breathes new life into the genre. With his subdued and almost removed approach, Munzi presents a new and less operatic take on the classic mob thriller.
Munzi’s ice-cold style does not stop with the tone and visuals. It’s hard to mistake the chill generated by particular characters, even when they’re brought into a setting as innocuous as a family meal. Car chases and shoot-outs are traded in for the flicker of an eyelid or the twitch in the corner of a mouth, playing on the stripped-back, almost mundane atmosphere of the characters’ reality. Much is said through each character’s idiosyncrasies, including the snake-like stasis of rival mob boss Don Pepe.
Muzi’s tale of masculine pride set against tragedies of Greek proportion is a stunning and earnest piece of filmmaking, and an unconventional chronicle of a way of life. Its universal fable would not be lost on anyone, and it is clear to see why the film has garnered wide praise.
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Every day MUBI’s in-house experts hand-pick a beautiful new film and you have 30 days to watch it. £4.99 a month with the first month free for Picturehouse customers. mubi.com/picturehouse