Shot through with all of British AOR star Chris Rea’s musical and personal trademarks (even though he never appears onscreen), “La Passione” is a distended musicvideo masquerading as a feature film. Mark this one for a quick trip to the easy-listening vid bin, where fans of the singer-composer can feast at will on this vanity outing.
Pinhead plot opens in England in 1961, with back-streets working-class boy Jo (Thomas Orange), son of an Italian immigrant father, watching the Monaco Grand Prix on the family’s new B&W TV and inspired by the exploits of a German racer, Count Wolfgang von Trips. Later, the adult Jo (Sean Gallagher) steals the family’s secret recipe for vanilla ice cream and uses it to make a bestselling after-shave, La Passione.
Jo uses his new-found millions to indulge his obsession with vintage racing cars, notably the Sharknose Ferrari. But when he realizes this is not the true path to happiness, he sells out and returns to Papa and his roots.
Padded with plenty of well-edited racing footage (in both color and B&W), and Rea’s distinctively bland songs, pic should prove a turn-on for auto buffs and the singer’s large fan club. As a pure movie, however, it’s thinly developed, repetitive in its visual language (cars, galloping horses, more cars) and about as emotionally trenchant as “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” Veteran singer Shirley Bassey, playing herself, is in for two top-hat-and-spangles production numbers (plugging the fragrance) that, on a limited budget, embarrassingly try to evoke classic Hollywood tuners.
TV comedy director John B. Hobbs directs functionally, and the blowup from Super-16 is good. However, sound quality, at screening caught in a large London theater, was hard-edged and unsubtle by today’s standards.