A year after his controversial film bow "Acla," director Aurelio Grimaldi returns with another story about the poor and disenfranchised in his native Sicily. Set in a girls' reform school, "The Rebel" has less shock value and more technical savvy than "Acla." Its commercial chances will be boosted by the intense screen presence of Spanish starlet Penelope Cruz in the lead role.

A year after his controversial film bow “Acla,” director Aurelio Grimaldi returns with another story about the poor and disenfranchised in his native Sicily. Set in a girls’ reform school, “The Rebel” has less shock value and more technical savvy than “Acla.” Its commercial chances will be boosted by the intense screen presence of Spanish starlet Penelope Cruz in the lead role.

A generally fast-moving story introduces tough, streetwise Enza (Cruz) as she tries to steal a wallet with her sister (Lorenza Indovina). A judge sends the girls, both minors, to a religious institute, where Sister Valida (amusingly camped up by Laura Betti) gives Enza enough slack to make some discoveries for herself.

Enza plays hookey to have her first sexual experience with curly-haired Sebastiano (Marco Leonardi), but later turns to handsome Franchino (Stefano Dionisio), with whose help she obtains her freedom from the institute. Final twist is ironic.

Grimaldi, a working teacher who also penned the Marco Risi prison-school film “Forever Mery,” treads a dangerous line in the reform school genre. The cliches are all here — the girls fight, get punished, exchange confidences, plot escape. Happily, much of the tale unfolds outside the institute’s walls.

In the lead role, Cruz, whose expressionless mask can be interpreted as sullen or mysterious, deep or shallow, has the magnetism to push film through its more deja-vu moments. Pic’s extensive use of fades and its elliptical style give it a contemporary appeal.

Carlo Crivelli’s score ranges from gently pungent to full-blown operatic. Maurizio Calvesi’s lensing gives the visuals a clean, classy look.

La Ribelle

(ITALIAN)

Production

A Taodue Film/Banda Magnetica/Reteitalia production. Produced by Pietro Valsecchi, Camilla Nesbitt. Directed, written by Aurelio Grimaldi, based on his novel "Storia di Enza."

Crew

Camera (color), Maurizio Calvesi; editor, Claudio Di Mauro; music, Carlo Crivelli; art direction, Pasquale Germano; costumes, Claudio Cordaro. Reviewed at Cinecitta lab, Rome, July 25, 1993. (In Locarno festival, competing. Also in N.I.C.E. fest, N.Y.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Enza ... Penelope Cruz Franchino ... Stefano Dionisio Sister Valida ... Laura Betti Rosaria ... Lorenza Indovina Sebastiano ... Marco Leonardi

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