Cool direction and performances sap the emotion from “The Third Moon,” a split-level love-and-memory story set amid the waterways and crumbling mansions of Venice. The biggest audience for this feature by Swiss-Italian helmer Matteo Bellinelli looks to be in living rooms rather than in theaters.
Architect Luca (Roberto Citran) has come to restore an elaborate house in the Jewish quarter that’s inhabited by Elio (Omero Antonutti), a reclusive, well-known novelist. The only other visitor to the house is Giulia (Alessandra Acciai), who seems to take care of the old man and has a mysterious relationship with a shady Russian, Sacha (Alexandre Medvedev).
Luca is flattered when Elio allows him to read the manuscript of his latest novel, “The Return,” about a pair of wartime Jewish lovers who meet again many years later when the man is a famous composer and the woman a singer. He wants her to be in his latest opera, about Shylock and Jessica. As Luca reads the book , he imagines himself and Giulia in the roles of the lovers.
The intertwining of the characters is at first clever but progressively less rewarding as the plot becomes clearer and spins off in such silly developments as Sacha being linked to the Russian Mafia and art forgeries. Audiences will be way ahead of the script in guessing the truth behind the novelist’s manuscript. Pic’s fatal flaw, however, is its lack of passion in recounting a story of passion, despite some warm underscoring of the action by composer Pino Donaggio (who also wrote the operatic sections) and attractive lensing by Carlo Varini. Performances by the experienced leads are solid but unexciting.