- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2005

“After Midnight,” exclusively at the American Film Institute Silver Theatre, accentuates self-conscious whimsy while pretending to conjure up a romantic comedy fable. The insecurity of writer-director Davide Ferrario is an instant burden on the soundtrack, which emphasizes an omniscient narration that favors wilted platitudes and stifles a sense of anticipation. Since the narrator knows all, from prologue to epilogue, there’s little incentive to discover much for yourself.

Mr. Ferrario generates more curiosity about a site, the Museum of Cinema in Turin, Italy, than his set of amorously entangled characters. A towering and cavernous edifice, the Mole Antonelliana, houses a prodigious collection of films and artifacts.

They comfort and inspire a shy custodian called Martino (Giorgio Pasotti). Particularly fond of Buster Keaton, he spends part of his solitary graveyard shift projecting vintage reels and is assembling a lovelorn short of his own, shot with a hand-cranked 9.5mm camera.

Martino’s workplace and soulfulness ought to be more beguiling than they prove under Mr. Ferrario’s supervision. The basic problem is that we confront a filmmaker with dreamy intentions whose execution is repeatedly faulty and disillusioning. It would be more useful to have an eccentrically talkative guide to the museum. Mr. Pasotti portrays a poker face of few words.

The plot is contrived to let his withdrawn character charm a dubious dream girl, Amanda (Francesca Inaudi), a fast food drudge consorting with a car thief nicknamed The Angel (Fabio Troiano). Mr. Ferrario hasn’t dealt himself a strong human-interest deck.

He fumbles with an odd romantic triangle that’s disenchanting from whatever direction you peer at it: hero, heroine, criminal boyfriend, ill-fitting allusions to “Jules and Jim.”

A bet Mr. Ferrario overlooks is a comic variation on “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which springs to mind as a scenic forerunner in numerous scenes. In daylight hours Martino and Amanda, who has taken refuge in the museum for a few days while wanted by the law, are frequently posed on an upper floor terrace that appears to wrap around the building and command impressive panoramas of Turin.

Since Martino is also identified as an avid stroller in the city while compiling images for his little movie, the pretext would lend itself to a more systematic appreciation of the city’s scenic appeal.

There is considerable reason to believe that Mr. Ferrario loves his location. There’s little reason to humor his whimsical ineptitude at inventing misfit lovers who are meant to be irresistible.

*1/2

TITLE: “After Midnight”

RATING: No MPAA rating (adult subject matter, with occasional profanity and fleeting violence, nudity and sexual candor)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Davide Ferrario. Cinematography by Dante Cecchin. Production design by Francesca Bocca. Costume design by Paolo Rosco. Music by Banda Iosica, Daniele Sepe and Fabio Barovero. In Italian with English subitles.

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

WEB SITE: www.avatarfilms.com/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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