The Family Friend (2006)

15 07 2008

Without a doubt, this is one of the most formally unique films of the decade. That isn’t to say it is one of the best films in the past couple of years, or that it is even the most technically impressive. It probably comes close to filling the title of the latter, but I feel much more confident calling it simply unique. Perhaps equating Sorrentino’s aesthetic to some sort of weird mix of Buñuel and Ho-Cheung Pang would begin to give one an impression of his truly distinct style, but the film is certainly “must see to believe” sort of things. It’s not a perfect film, if only because of its flimsy, but equally unorthodox, narrative. Still, it is definitely one of the more interesting cinematic experiences of recent memory.

Geremia is an aging money lender and lives in a tiny apartment with his obese mother, who spends all day watching zoological specials on TV. Geremia’s repulsive physical appearance combined with his obsessive affection for money makes him a rather off-putting character, to say the least. However, he slowly works his way into the life of all of his clients, becoming a “family friend.” He asked for a loan by a man financing the wedding of his daughter, Rosalba. Geremia falls for Rosalba, but she is understandably, turned off by his advances. Geremia is consistent, though, and eventually becomes disgustingly irresistible to Rosalba.

The previous Buñuel comparison essentially has more to do with Sorrentino’s themes and how he playfully deals with them, than with the director’s unique formalism. The seemingly random opening sequence of a nun, buried up to her neck in sand, is the same sort of cynical surrealism that dominated much of Buñuel later work in France. The misogynist overtones certainly don’t hurt, either. Complaining about a lack of “development” in the characters seems sort of silly in this case, as I’m pretty sure the “flatness” is an intentional trademark. Still, there’s something particularly interesting about Sorrentino’s protagonist as he is unlike any I’ve ever seen.

Such a plot-driven approach in not my favorite in cinema, but considering how much focus Sorrentino places on the technical, I wouldn’t be surprised if little thought was put into the actual content. This is not a problem, actually. Perhaps my wording makes the film out to be one-dimensionally “intellectual” in the sense that its only qualities lie in its form. That’s not true, necessarily, despite how bizarre much of the story is, it is oddly poignant at times. Of course, such poignancy is heighten by Sorrentino’s dazzling camera work that presents tremendously lush visuals. As cynical as misogynistic as the film may or may not be, it does pack a powerful and perhaps amusing punch. Not a great film, but a wonderfully confusing one.

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2 responses

16 07 2008
Jan S

I actually saw Sorrentino’s predecessor to this and remember hating it, but this looks great. KG here I come!

16 07 2008
Jake Savage

Hopefully you’ll post your thoughts within the next three months. 😛

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