Lost Kisses -- Film Review

Fun to look at and well-played, the film has too many loose threads in a threadbare plot.

VENICE -- Roberta Torre returns to the Sicilian camp of her earlier work in a comedy drama that goes everywhere and nowhere. Fun to look at and well-played, the visually splashy "Lost Kisses" has too many loose threads in a threadbare plot. The opening film of the Venice Film Festival's Controcampo Italiano section, from a darling of local independent cinema, is unlikely to travel.

When 13-year-old Manuela (Carla Marchese) claims to have been visited by the Madonna in a dream, the people of her rundown neighborhood in Catania, Sicily, flock to her for miracles -- to get them on TV's "Big Brother," cure gambling, find jobs, even treat blindness. Her big-haired, big-mouthed mother (Donatella Finocchiaro) sets up visiting hours for her overwhelmed daughter, and the money comes pouring in.

It's all a sham -- or is it? By the time a real miracle occurs, "Kisses" has wandered off its path one too many times for the event to have a clear emotional impact. There also are huge continuity problems throughout: jumps in time, place and costume that might be intentionally kooky but feel more like haphazard editing.

Torre's colorful cocktail basically boils down to the outlandish but deeply rooted religious beliefs of the south, but a mother-daughter drama that often takes a back seat is the film's core and most appealing story line. There's great chemistry between Finocchiaro, who goes all out for her campy role, and first-timer Marchese. The filmmakers really lucked out: Not only can the latter act, she also bears an incredible resemblance to her screen mother.

Venue: Venice Film Festival (Controcampo Italiano)
Production: Rosetta Film, Nuvola Film
Cast: Donatella Finocchiaro, Pino Micol, Giuseppe Fiorello, Carla Marchese, Martina Gallettta, Tony Palazzo, Valentina Giordanella, Piera Degli Esposti
Director: Roberta Torre
Screenwriters: Roberta Torre, Laura Nuccilli
Producers: Roberta Torre, Amedeo Bacigalupo
Director of photography: Fabio Zamarion
Production designer: Biagio Fersini
Music: Federico Di Giambattista, Andrea Fabiani
Costume designer: Loredana Buscemi
Editor: Osvaldo Bargero
Sales: Adriana Chiesa Enterprises
No rating, 83 minutes