Carlo’s daughter turns places and atmospheres of Neapolitan cinema into an indie-Andersonian sauce, and brings to the screen an unusual and lopsided coming-of-age story. Federico Gironi’s review of Billy.
Billy is 19 years old. He is a former child prodigy who lives with a mother who to say extravagant is an understatement and without a father: he left home while Billy was still a child, not yet a prodigy. He lives with his mother, who is ditzy, moody, chain smoker, devoid of any practical sense and economic scruples in a terraced house near a large river. He plays with the local kids, he’s in love with a girl of the same age who seems to get away with everyone except him, occasionally confides in the girl who runs a kiosk near the railway. And then one day in his life comes Zippo, a former rock star who seems to spend his life running away from who knows what.
Emilia Mazzacuratinot even thirty years old, a successful short film behind him, makes his feature film debut with an unusual, bizarre, decidedly courageous film, in which he mixes in his own way, not always homogeneously, very different types of influences.
On the one hand there is the inheritance, which is not only generic and geographical, of father Carlo: therefore of course, the river, the plain, the province, but also a certain way of approaching anxieties and non-conformity, feelings and lunar humour.
On the other there is the long shadow of that American independent cinema whose champion was Wes Andersonbut which, just to name a name, also produced the Jared Hess Of Napoleon Dynamite. However, there is a lot of Anderson here. Lots of gods Tenenbaumsay, from the dynamics between child and parent through certain more or less explicit references to Salingerand to Salinger of the “Nine Tales” in particular.
The most curious thing, in this hybrid world, and perhaps a little too derivative, in these environments that seem to arise from the overlapping of the aesthetics of Ghirri e you Hopperis that Emilia Mazzacurati has spread over everything – images, characters, situations and stories – a patina of bitterness that goes beyond generational boundariesand is never raised, not even in an ending that seemed vaguely optimistic but which in the end leaves us suspended, uncertain, next to a petrol pump along a provincial road, while the new year is dawning and the future a unknown.
Not everything works out for Billy.
There is often a thread of manner too many, characters like those of Battiston and Gassmann are characterized with a touch that is a little too marked, and the existential vagueness that is evoked and sought after can be transformed into narrative evanescence.
E however, Emilia Mazzacurati cannot be recognized for some successes that are all children of the desire to take risksto aim high, making Billy’s places and characters something suspended in space and time, an almost western frontier that resembles a limbo in which to float in order to survive or from which to escape in order to live.
As does the most marginal, yet central and centered character of the film, that of a Carlotta Gamba not only beautiful but also good, the Penelope who manages the kiosk near the railway, and who mentions the Wacky Races but it is far from a cartoon.