Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Strangeness (2022) Open Roads 2023

I suspect that your reaction to this wonderful film is going to be either anger and annoyance at the odd rambling nature of the narrative or you are going to be enthralled and cheering, kind of like the depiction of the reaction to Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of An Exit that ends this film.

I was cheering.

The plot of the film has the writer Luigi Pirandello going to Sicily for a funeral of a friend. On top of the loss he is blocked and unable to write anything.  Into his life stumble two men who run the funeral home being used for the burial. They are a crazed duo who have theatrical aspirations. As Pirandello interacts with the two men the seeds for his best known work are planted.

Playing like a Pirandello play, THE STRANGENESS is a film that requires that you give yourself over to it. You have to go with the seemingly random nature of some of the early sections in order for the later more controlled parts to make sense. The film is a structured so that we are given a bunch of characters and themes at the start that come together when we realize that nothing was as random as we thought. The film is simply trying to misdirect in order to better inform us as to what is going on.

I really liked this film a great deal. It brought up an interview I saw many years ago where in the middle of a career spanning interview Richard Harris took a detour to discuss Pirandello's work. At the time he was doing a Pirandello play in London, and managed to explain the author's work in a way that was infinitely better, briefer and more user friendly than any course or book that I had read on the subject. Harris’ take on Pirandello’s play was very much like what we are seeing here. There is a mix of serious and playful that gets us engaged and thinking.

That the  film works as well as it does is entirely due to the three leads. Toni Servillo is a wonderful Pirandello. While I know some people don’t think he is given much to do, he does in fact push things forward. It’s a quiet and restrained performance where he reveals the world in looks and small gestures. Sure he isn’t as flashy as Salvo Ficarra and Valentino Picone as the undertakers but if he wasn’t as solid as he is the film would implode. As for Ficarra and Picone they are sheer perfection. The two are on another plane of existence and simply tear down the house. They just go and go and go, where is anyone’s guess, but that’s okay, since it’s a universe where they are known and loved. The paring is quite simply one of the greatest things I’ve seen on screen in the last five years.  If nothing else, their interplay is a reason to see this film. Just wow. You need to see them, trust me

THE STRANGENESS delighted me. Initially not on my must see list for Open Roads is won me over in grand fashion and is, in my humble opinion, the best films in the series. I can’t recommend the film enough.

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