Lagi, director of Missione di pace and the documentary Zigulì, brings his second fictional work to the Torino Film Festival: a film based on a play of the same name that tells of three brothers grappling with the ghosts of a lifetime, and that is something unique in the Italian cinema scene.
Isidoro, Chiara and Michele are three brothers. They find themselves, in the days before Christmas, in the old and big house of their childhood, the one where Isidoro still lives with his mother. It was Isidoro who called the other two, because his mother is sick, she is in the hospital, and they have to go and see her, all three together, because the woman has to tell them something.
With Michele is Miriam, his new girlfriend, who remembers someone a lot to Isidoro and Chiara. And then there is a TV remote control that is not found, there is the Christmas tree with the lights that Isidoro tries all the time to make it work, a phone that rings and meatballs in the freezer. There are childhood memories, the ghosts of a life, of that life that the three brothers lived so far away and so differently. And there is the absence of the mother, of that mother who has to tell them something, and they have to go and see her, and to hear what she has to say, what she has to leave them before leaving them, they are afraid.
Almost Christmas is the second fiction film by Francesco Again, which comes nine years later Peace mission, which was presented at the Venice Critics’ Week in 2011. In these nine years Again it wasn’t idle. For example, he directed the documentary Zigulì, which just recently won at the Bolognese festival Italian visions the Young for Young Award for the best work that addresses the world of childhood and adolescence.
But, above all, he wrote for the theater, and directed the plays he wrote and staged with his company, which is called Teatrodilina, which also includes the protagonists of this film, who are Anna Bellato, Francesco Colella, Silvia D’Amico e Leonardo Maddalena. That they are all good, and then they are also the same ones who played the same characters in the theater.
Because Almost Christmas, come Zigulì, comes directly from there, from Lagi’s theatrical work.
One feels, that there is the theater at the base of Almost Christmas. And in fact, al Turin Film Festival, is presented in an Out of Competition section called Traces of Theater.
But be careful, because there is also a lot of cinema inside Almost Christmas. Cinema, in the least obvious and most complex sense of the term, yet at the same time more direct and natural. Cinema that is made up of storytelling skills, attention to image and details. Of the ability to build a world, and to chalice it inside, and to travel through that no-man’s land that lies between reality and dreams without ever making too many concessions to either side.
Hard to say what it is Almost Christmas. It is a small film, of truly independent production (the company is that of Alfredo Covelli, and is called Meproducodasolo), and goodbye it is not perfect. It’s not a pure comedy, but it’s funny, in its weird and surreal way. It is a drama, and it can move, but it seems to want to almost shun its nature, and discard it to other territories as soon as it realizes that it is about to say one word too much, and to get out of suggestion to become brash and explicit.
It is an apparently naturalist film, in history, in places, in things, but which instead seems to be infused, from the very first moments, with a thin veil of ironic surrealism, also ready to reveal possible magical, esoteric and sentimental implications.
More than anything else, Almost Christmas is a unique film.
In fact, I can’t think of anything else like it that has been born in Italian cinema over the last few years. Whether he proposed that kind of mystery, that kind of atmosphere, that kind of humor or that kind of drama. That he told characters so real and eccentric at the same time without ever forcing his hand, and that he gave the constant sensation of always moving, almost imperceptibly, subliminally, never to be really focused and framed with precision within a gaze, a cage of thought, a genre or a style. And that, at the same time, it possesses such a clear, limpid and defined personality.
All this, and not just the fact that it was taken from a very beautiful and very difficult show to be translated on screen, means a clear thing. And evident.
All this, all that Almost Christmas it is, and all that it is not, is to mean and demonstrate that the gaze of Francesco Again, the gaze he has on stories and their staging, on characters and things, on environments and feelings, is a unique gaze in the context of Italian cinema.
And that is the gaze of a true author. And of an artist.