Next Millennium Stories” is a tiresome throwback to the formless experimentation of the radical ’70s. Veteran helmer Francesco Maselli aims his ire at the capitalist exploitation of the working class, updating his symbolic attack only in showing how today’s underclass consists of immigrants from the Third World. It is quite hard to imagine an audience nostalgic enough to enjoy this tedious story about the transformation of a slumdwellers’ action collective into an exploitative instrument of oppression.
Action takes place in a hideously ugly building on the outskirts of an unnamed city. The city council has decided to gentrify the area, and the tenement, populated by a half-dead collection of whores, drug dealers, beggars, garbage collectors and generic sub-proletariat, is slated for demolition. But led by young window washer Lucia, the hollow-eyed denizens, who look like they stepped out of the underground city in Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” form an action group that not only blocks the demolition but turns the building into a beehive of small business activity. But instead of triumphing, they become exploiters in turn, opening a series of sweatshops for illegal Chinese and Peruvian immigrants. Under the cruel whip of their new masters, the Third World workers slave away until they drop.
Pic uses a sprawling cast of barely distinguishable actors without allowing any to emerge from the pack or even get a screen credit.
Visually, the film is dominated by art director Marco Dentici’s hellish gray concrete sets, which strongly recall certain Russian-Polish-Czech apocalypse films. Pierluigi Santi’s cinematography aims for chiaroscuro effects, but the sophisticated lighting attempts — echoed in Giovanna Marini’s classical piano score — generally translate as dark images full of groping bodies that recall Living Theater pieces. Not even abundant female nudity (camera looks away when the men disrobe) allows much pleasure, since costume designer Mariolina Bono’s theme is unwashed grunge. Shot without a shred of humor or self-irony, pic cannot, alas, be enjoyed as a parody