Romanzo Criminale (Crime Novel) *****
Director, Michele Placido, has taken the novel, Romanzo Criminale (Crime Novel) by Giancarlo De Cataldo to the big screen and given the audience a different picture of the Italian Mafia in Rome.
The film’s narrative is an adaptation from a novel, but the story is based on historical facts. There was a ten-year period beginning in the 70s where the Italian Mafia, in the city of Rome was run by street hoodlums whose fantasy was to become wealthy and powerful. Amazingly these hooligans achieved their dream. A rise to power within the criminal underground world gave them the notoriety and fame as big-time gangsters.
Four childhood friends (Kim Rossi Stuart as Ice; Riccardo Scamarcio as Black, Pierfrancesco Favino as Lebanese and Claudio Santamaria as Dandy) began stealing cars during their adolescent years. The older they got, the more daring their escapades. They were known for their crimes but also for their ease to elude the police, especially one annoying private detective, Sclaloja (Stefano Accorsi). This small band of brothers was the talk of the street and revered as highly dangerous. Sclaloja followed their every move with the sole purpose of eroding of their power. Unlike a traditional clever family-run Mafia, these hoodlums in the end lacked the savvy to hold on to their turf and their high profile clients as well. The romantic lifestyle they acquired was toppled by grave personal tragedy which led to their downward spiral of power.
Everything worked in this film but the creativity of the message came through the cinematography and music. The powerful imagery of the film’s cinematography could tell the story alone. However, the opening and closing sceneries were filled with incredible emotion. These scenes brought the film’s message full circle with gut-wrenching metaphors. The development of the original musical score combined with vintage songs of the 70s, was brilliantly mastered. Another interesting aspect was that the music was perfectly timed to make the necessary important points of the narrative. And, the music was creatively used to make strong transitions from scene to scene. Timing was a key factor here and it was done right! These transitions played a vital role in accenting the twists and turns in the tragic storyline. The music supported the powerful message this film wanted to express. It was perfection par excellence!
Press Conference Experience:
Romanzo Criminale (Crime Novel) was one of the most interesting films at the Berlinale 2006 and the press conference (PC) left an impression that I will never forget. I had arrived at the press conference room earlier than most journalists and had a great pick of seats. I chose to sit on the far right-hand side. While I was quietly waiting for the rest of my colleagues to arrive, I noticed three rather large attractive men in black suits, entering from the back of the far left of the room. They made their way toward the panel discussion table located in the front of the room. They made a very slow and concentrated effort to enter with grandeur. They looked so out of place! They were huge in stature and were dressed very formally. They placed themselves to the far, front-right of the room, where the directors, actors, etc. would be entering. A few seconds later another group of similar men appeared and joined the first group. It was a strange sight but I was curious and enjoyed watching these Men in Black. Who were these big men and what were they doing? Journalists, they were not! The room began to fill up and over the next few minutes there arrived four more groups of elegantly dressed men and women gravitating to the area where the first two groups of men were standing all in their black suits. Not one in this troop took it upon himself to sit in a chair. While I was staring at these beautiful people, I reflected on the film and began to think of questions to ask. I suddenly gasped because when the words “Mafia story” entered my mind, I realized that the scene looked just like the gathering of the Godfather tribe. I couldn’t help but chuckle and wonder if this visual imagery was “real” Mafia presence? I was so shocked that my mind had run away with this idea but then thought, was it all my imagination?