'Fiore': Cannes Review

Fiore - H 2016
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
Prison romance lite.

Love blossoms between two Italian teens in a juvenile detention center.

Decades after it came into vogue, the French New Wave still holds allure for many young filmmakers, as is evident in the stylish but overly familiar Fiore, recounting the travails of love between two attractive young delinquents in a juvenile detention center. Claudio Giovannesi, who directed several second-year episodes of the popular Gomorrah series for Italian TV, is no stranger to filming violence, but the tone here is much closer to Truffaut’s immortal ode to freedom The 400 Blows. Sadly missing is that film’s tender poignancy and ability to move the viewer.

The luminous presence of newcomer Daphne Scoccia holds the film together, though her teen rebel from an underprivileged background looks pretty traditional as far as characters go. The film’s bow in Cannes’ Directors Fortnight is a prestigious leap forward for the director of the critically praised (and more involving) salute to Pasolini, Ali Blue Eyes. But audience-wise, this looks aimed at under-21’s who can identify with a foolish, headstrong heroine.

The story once again focuses on troubled youth living on the margins of Italian society. We first meet Daphne (Scoccia) in the subway, where she works with an accomplice stealing smartphones. Her technique involves pressing a knife to her victims’ throats, and when she is caught a few scenes later, there is no question of her guilt and urgent need to be re-educated. Since almost no backstory is provided, sympathy is not automatic for this tough street girl. She actually seems more air-headed than bad, like when she sets her own bed on fire, or blows a perfect chance to get an early release.

The horrors of prison life as recounted in innumerable other films are largely absent. Since her lockup in an institution for minors isn’t presented as particularly gruesome or traumatic, one wonders why the guards are all photographed from the neck down like faceless robots. True, the head warden is strict and humorless, and all contact with the boys’ ward in the building next door is off limits. But that doesn’t stop Daphne from getting acquainted with the cool Josh (Josciua Algeri), a tall boy who notices her in the exercise yard. When he convinces her to call his ex and find out why she broke up with him, it’s an obvious trigger for romance. The rest of the film moves forward on the wave of their forbidden yet surprisingly innocent feelings via smuggled love letters and fleeting glances. Apart from a quick kiss between the baby-blue prison bars and a romantic New Year’s Eve dance, physical contact is nil. Can love change their lives? One would rather doubt it from the silly, illogical ending.

More dramatically engaging are the scenes of Daphne interacting with her father Ascanio (Valerio Mastandrea), who has just been released from prison after a seven-year stint. He’s still under house arrest and living with an Eastern European woman (Laura Vasiliu) and her son, who the girl meets during visiting hours. The tension between them culminates in a nicely handled scene where Daphne gets her first overnight permission to leave the center.

“Fiore,” which means flower in Italian, is never explained in the film, but presumably refers to the bloom of youth on the protags, both of whom are very photogenic and covered with tattoos.

Production companies: Pupkin Production, IBC Movie in association with RAI Cinema

Cast: Daphne Scoccia, Josciua Algeri, Valerio Mastrandrea, Laura Vasiliu

Director: Claudio Giovannesi

Screenwriters: Claudio Giovannesi, Filippo Gravino, Antonella Lattanzi

Producers: Rita Rognoni, Beppe Caschetto, Fabrizio Mosca

Director of photography: Daniele Cipri

Production designer: Daniele Frabetti

Editor: Giuseppe Trepiccione

Music: Claudio Giovannesi, Andrea Moscianese

Casting director: Alicia Polizzi

Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight)

In Italian

114 minutes