Citizens of the World

 

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An Italian comedy that will appeal to admirers of its predecessors.

 
Citizens of the World  

Gianni Di Gregorio has had his own style from the off, but his directorial career was a late development for a man who, born in 1949, had established himself initially as a writer for film and television.  That first work was 2008's Mid-August Lunch in which, despite not originally planning it that way, Di Gregorio took the leading role himself. The film set a tone of observational comedy dependent on engaging characters (in that case save for his own role they were predominantly elderly women played by non-professionals) and it gained Di Gregorio a following. If, regardless of its appeal, I liked it less than many did that was because I expected the situation depicted to offer more in the way of a plot and a resolution. I again had a problem with that film's successor, Salt of Life (2011), which provided a variation on the formula but was less persuasive and this time featured Di Gregorio as a married man whose obsession with younger women felt inappropriate rather than a touching illustration of how much he felt that he had missed out on a more meaningful life.

 

Di Gregorio's third feature, Buoni a nulla (2014), was not released here, but with his fourth, Citizens of the World, he is relaxed and in his groove. Not only does he retain the best aspects of his earlier pieces (the quiet comic episodes which echo the subtle eye of the great Jacques Tati, the homely atmospheric appeal of a film set in Rome) but he also has the advantage once again of Gogò Bianchi's colour photography and of a totally apt music score by Ratchev & Carratello. On top of that, although he still keeps to a work that offers less a full-scale plot than a depiction of a situation, he has with his co-writer Marco Pettenello come up with material that is ideally suited to his purposes.

 

Citizens of the World features two elderly friends - the Professor played by Di Gregorio himself and Giorgetto played by Giorgio Colangeli - and they soon join forces with another man, Attilio (Ennio Fantastichini), who seems ready to share their dream of getting away from Italy to start up a new life abroad (there is optimistic talk of opening a restaurant on arrival despite none of them having experience in that line). Of all fictional figures who dream of a better life elsewhere, the three sisters created by Chekhov are perhaps the most famous, but as written we never expect their desire to go to Moscow to come to fruition. Turn to Italy and similarly one can think of the youths in Fellini's I Vitelloni (1953) with their limited chances of actually breaking off the shackles of their provincial small-town life. The trio in Citizens of the World may distantly and in passing recall the three male friends who bring touches of comedy to Ozu's Late Autumn, but more than anything else they exist as older characters whose plans are as illusory as those of the younger dreamers of whom I was reminded. Since that is evident from the start we aren't left looking for a plot that will develop and lead to some dramatic climax. Instead we can settle back and find satisfaction in watching these well portrayed figures, relishing the humour and aware of just a touch - no more - of underlying sadness. Unless Di Gregorio's style is too gentle for you, you should appreciate Citizens of the World which is certainly for me the work of his that I have enjoyed most. 

 

Original title: Cittadini del Mondo.

  

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Ennio Fantastichini, Gianni Di Gregorio, Giorgio Colangeli, Salih Saadin Khalid, Daphne Scoccia, Francesca Ventura, Silvia Galleriano, Iris Peynado, Galatea Ranzi, Giancarlo Porcacchia, Roberto Herlitzka.

 

Dir Gianni Di Gregorio, Pro Angelo Barbagallo, Screenplay Gianni Di Gregorio and Marco Pettenello, Ph Gogò Bianchi, Ed Marco Spoletini, Music Ratchev & Carratello.

 

BiBi Film/Le Pacte/Rai Cinema-Curzon.
92 mins. Italy. 2019. Rel: 12 June 2020. Available on Curzon Home Cinema. No Cert.