Open Roads 2013: E’ stato il figlio – It was the Son (Daniele Cipri – 2012)

It’s June, so that means it’s time for Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2013 at New York’s Lincoln Film Society. It’s a fantastic annual festival that brings some of the freshest voices in Italian Cinema, thus breaking the chain for the typical crop of old classics that some Italian cinema fests tend to focus on.

Official Poster for E’ stato il figlio – It was the Son (Daniele Cipri – 2012)Excellent capture of the film essence, the towering family; always worried, always caring

This year, I kicked off my cinematic journey with a debut film by Daniele Cipri, a Sicilian director from Palermo, known for his award-winning Cinico TV series, he co-produced with Franco Maresco for RAI 3. The series illustrated the rough Sicilian reality of marginalization, suffering and passive acceptance, through caricatured and grotesque characters.

In this film, based on a novel by Roberto Alajmo, Cipri leverages these foundations to tell the story of the Ciraulo family that lives in a poor housing project in Palermo. The dominating father, Nicola (Toni Servillo) makes a living with his passive son Tancredi (Fabrizio Falco) – scavenging old metal from abandoned ships. Nicola, wishes that his son, aged 21, will become more assertive and take charge of the business, so he can take over and provide for the family.

However, Tancredi – a typical Sicilian name – that I find carries complete opposite associations: the name means “deep thought or advice” or the one who thinks hard before providing advice. It also reminded me of another famous Tancredi from Luchino Visconti’s 1963 Il Gattopardo The Leopard. In that film, the over ambitious Tancredi, played by Alain Delon, during the tumultuous years of Italy’s Risorgimento. In short, a heavy name that here is in conflict with the son’s naïve character.

I won’t go any further sharing the plot to keep the experience fresh for those of you will happen to see the film. Instead, I will focus on elements that captured my attention.

E’ stato il figlio – It was the Son (Daniele Cipri – 2012)Cipri’s story-within- a-story tactic is also visually mirrored in a few close shot scenes, like this one, that
after stabilizing the dialog, the camera zooms out to reveal another distant layer. In this case, a metal pipe

that adds a poetic frame to the scavengers’ lives

The first thing that came to mind, is the innovative story within a story plot line. Yes, we have all seen this tactic being used in so many other films and our brain is already trained to identify certain patterns that will lead to certain outcomes. Well, not in this movie. Every time, I thought I figured the probable outcome of a scene, it ended up different. Cipri has this amazing talent to use external plot, positioned as distant as possible from the core plot, and then change the plausible connection between the two, at last moment.

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Official trailer

I also liked the use of vulgar and grotesque characters, almost Fellinians, to carry the tragic-comic ambience of the film. Cipri’s screenplay offers each member of the Ciraulo family, “close-up scenes” for the audience to better understand their personality and drivers. I especially liked that tactic employed with the role of the grandmother (Aurora Quattrocchi), that most of the film has minor presence, but then comes to life in a big way, in a single scene later.

This comic relief coupled with a dose of bitter social criticism, is in fact the classic ingredients of the Commedia all’italiana – Italian comedy – of early 60s. In fact, the opening scene shows a bunch of workers, led by Nicola hurriedly making their way to be the first to scavenge a lopsided ship in the bay. Without knowing how this scene will develop, it reminded me of another memorable scene from Mario Monicelli’s 1958 I Soliti Ignoti – Big Deal in Madonna Street (considered the first Italian comedy film). In that scene, Peppe (Vittorio Gassman) the job-averse hides away from cops only to find himself unwillingly in a crowd of eager workers in a junkyard.

On the surface you may say, there is no direct connection, other than the location type and the genre as both scenes forked out in different storyline directions. However, that’s the beauty of movie watching, there is no wrong answer. Our bank of personal experiences, and associations to similar movies, spark our imagination to frame our point of view.

“It was the son” is the movie title; it might be right but also wrong…

By Shlomi Ron

Visual marketing guy with a penchant for fine Italian cinema.

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