Annalisa (Il Paese Delle Spose Infelici): Film Review

Italian ‘80s-set teen drama comes up way wide of the goal post.

Italian director Pippo Mezzapesa's period piece has two adolescent boys stalk a mysterious woman around town until the three wind up in a relationship.

ROME — An offbeat coming-of-age dramedy that treads in the same waters as Y Tu Mama Tambien, but without the “bien” part, Annalisa (Il Paese Delle Spose Infelici) plays less like a full-fledged narrative than like a handful of shorts, music videos and commercials stringed together to form a feature. Set in the southeastern region of Apulia (the heel of Italy’s boot), this meandering tale of two teenage buddies and their encounter with a mysterious young woman reps a shaky debut for director Pippo Mezzapesa, who showcases some style but not much storytelling skill. Rome competition premiere will be followed by additional mid-range fest berths, while Italian audiences could appreciate the period piece’s various nods to the ‘80s.

Based on a book by Mario Desiati, the film follows the friendship of lanky outsider, Veleno (Nicolas Orzella), and charismatic tough guy, Zaza (Luca Schipani), as they mull about in a factory ‘burb whose main sources of entertainment are either playing soccer or dealing drugs – both of which Zaza does rather well. When the pair witnesses the bizarre Annalisa (Aylin Prandi) attempt to jump off the roof of a church, they stalk her around town until the three wind up in a relationship, each boy secretly hoping to make it with the melancholic and taciturn muse.

Beyond the usual adolescent shenanigans (group masturbating to porn, etc.), that’s about it for the story, while a subplot involving Zaza’s dealer brother and his shady supplier heads in the most obvious direction imaginable. That it took three screenwriters working off a novel to come up with what amounts to enough material for a 20-minute short is one of the movie’s major shortcomings, and the narrative never builds into something engaging enough to warrant full-length treatment.

Shooting in lush widescreen and filling the soundtrack with various 80s pop tunes, Mezzapesa tries to enhance the action with a sort of nostalgic lyricism, but he tends to miss his mark here as well: When Zaza shows off his talents during a local soccer match (his pipe-dream is to play for Juventus),the filmmaker opts for slow-mo and orchestral music, turning what could have been a moment of youthful bliss into something as generic as an Adidas ad. It’s as if the director never trusts in the material enough to let it play out organically. Given the lack of real content, he may not have been wrong.

Venue: Rome Film Festival
Production companies: Fandango, in collaboration with Rai Cinema
Cast: Nicolas Orzella, Luca Schipani, Aylin Prandi, Cosimo Villani, Vincenzo Leggieri, Gennaro Albano, Antonio Gerardi
Director: Pippo Mezzapesa
Screenwriters: Antonio Leotti, Antonella Gaeta, Pippo Mezzapesa
Based on the novel by: Mario Desiati
Producer: Domenico Procacci
Director of photography: Michele D’Attanasio
Production designer: Sabrina Balestra
Music: Pasquale Catalano
Costume designers: Francesca Vecchi, Roberta Vecchi
Editor: Giogio Franchini
Sales Agent: Fandango Portobello Sales
No rating, 82 minutes