45th Parallel (La Luna su Torino): Rome Review

Playful Italian dramedy has stylistic flourishes but lacks a juicy story.

Writer-director Davide Ferrario (“After Midnight”) premiered his latest feature in an out of competition slot at the Rome Film Festival.

A stylish and whimsical ensemble dramedy that never quite hammers it home in the plot department, writer-director Davide Ferrario’s 45th Parallel (La Luna su Torino) tracks three 30-40 something housemates looking for love, and life’s answers, in the northern Italian city of Turin. Not unlike an extended episode of Friends, but with less laughs and more cinematic pontificating, this mildly engaging effort from the former film critic and distributor -- whose features After Midnight and Primo Levi’s Journey were both released in the U.S. -- is more suitable for local tastes, and should see scattered fest play after an Out of Competition bow in Rome.

Ugo (Walter Leonardi) is a jobless erudite who kills time riding his bike, reading (and profusely citing) poet/philosopher Giacomo Leopardi, and otherwise lounging around the motley suburban house he inherited from his deceased parents. When he’s not brooding alone in bed, he playfully chats up his two housemates: the handsome zookeeper and aspiring writer, Dario (Eugenio Franceschini), and the romance-seeking travel agent, Maria (Manuela Parodi), whom Ugo desperately tries to get in the sack.

Tracking the three protagonists as they deal with their existential crises, the loosely constructed narrative never really builds into a real plot, although the tough-and-go relationship between Ugo and Maria gives it some momentum -- especially during a dinner sequence that reveals Ferrario’s knack for comic timing. Other scenes are less successful, resorting to over-the-top hijinks typical of contemporary Italian comedies, including a gag where two guys get stuck in a doorway, and another where Ugo runs around naked screaming “vaffanculo!”

As the different storylines never quite coalesce, Ferrario tries to weave them together via a series of artsy, documentary images of Turin, which, as a voiceover explains, is located on the 45th parallel and thus equidistant between the North and South Poles. While such moments feel tacked on to the rest of the movie and never add much to the characters, they do offer up a virtual sightseeing tour of the city, captured by cinematographer Dante Cecchin in vibrantly lit, widescreen compositions (some of which are purposely lopsided, in a stylistic move that can be distracting).

Performances are lively, with Leonardi playing the sort of wisecracking curmudgeon that Nanni Moretti has portrayed in numerous movies, although Ugo has few overt political convictions. Indeed -- and like his hopelessly lost roommates -- he belongs to a world of soul-searching, middle-to-upper class Turinese bobos that Ferrario’s film seems to both mock and romanticize at the same time.

Venue: Rome Film Festival (Out of Competition)

Production companies: Rossofuoco

Cast: Walter Leonardi, Manuela Parodi, Eugenio Franceschini, Daria Pascal Attolini

Director, screenwriter: Davide Ferrario

Producer: David Ferrario

Director of photography: Dante Cecchin

Production designers: Francesca Bocca, Valentina Ferroni

Costume designer: Paola Ronco

Music: Fabio Barovero

Editor: Claudio Cormio

Sales agent: Lion Pictures International

No rating, 94 minutes