The short film extended to feature length is fast becoming a fruitful subgenre of Italian cinema, facilitating the debuts of a growing number of cash-strapped filmmakers. Following well-received bows like Pappi Corsicato’s “Libera,” Sandro Baldoni’s “Weird Tales” and Gianni Zanasi’s “In the Thick of It ,” writer-directors Eugenio Cappuccio, Massimo Gaudioso and Fabio Nunziata have bulked up their 1995 short, “The Reel,” with amusing results. Documenting the various crises of three aspiring auteurs, this budgetless enterprise should tickle festgoers, and especially other struggling cineastes.
Opening with the original 10-minute short — prize winner at the 1995 Locarno fest — the film goes on to wryly recount the trials of the directing trio, who play themselves with disarming self-deprecation, as they attempt to break into features armed with only the flimsiest of story ideas. Their script deals with a man who gets up, makes coffee, goes to the bathroom, and so on.
Rejecting Massimo and Fabio’s attempts to improvise a minimalist work of artistic integrity, the group’s most dynamic character, Eugenio, brings in a U.S. scripter who suggests opening with a girl stripping in a piazza. The film stock runs out even before she gets her sweater off, but they print the footage regardless, and enter it in a series of short-film competitions, eventually winning a small prize. They then attempt to bring a producer on board.
Trekking miles to a remote hilltop where producer Gianluca Arcopinto (playing himself) lives in a high-tech trailer, they pitch their idea. He insists on shooting in color, using proven box office stars and recruiting one of them to play on his soccer team in weekly matches against rival indie producer Domenico Procacci.
While the laughs could have been much more sustained and the humor sometimes veers toward insider jokes, the creative conundrums satirized here should strike chords with anyone acquainted with the process. Technically threadbare operation is kept ticking along by co-director Nunziata’s brisk editing, Daniele Sepe’s circus-style music and, more than anything, by the engaging screen personalities of the team behind it.