Italy’s regional filmmaking movement scores another small but impressive success with “Life Blood,” shot in the boot-heel of Italy in Salento dialect with a non-pro cast and a strongly realistic thrust. As with a recent mini-hit from the same region, “Theheadisspinning,” the dialect is so thick the pic is being released with Italian subtitles. Though likely to score biggest in its native south, with critical encouragement this classic tragedy could catch hold more widely.
Strong local atmosphere will make it of special interest to offshore auds interested in Italy. It marks the second feature of Salento helmer Edouardo Winspeare, whose debut, “Pizzicata,” found U.S. release with Milestone after wide festival exposure.
Story throws viewers into the middle of the chaotic life of Zimba (Pino Zimba), a hot-blooded fruit and vegetable vendor who makes ends meet smuggling cigarettes from Albania. He has two kids, a hostile wife, a compliant lover and a much younger, ex-addict brother, Donato (Lamberto Probo). Both siblings have been traumatized by their father’s accidental death, for which Zimba feels responsible.
The dramatic setup is convincingly portrayed by the intense screen presence and physicality of Zimba and Probo. Both are musicians in the group Zoe, which composed the film’s catchy ethnic soundtrack. As in “Pizzicata,” regional music plays a central role in propelling the story. Based on the millennia-old rhythm of the tarantella (called the pizzica-pizzica in Salento), this sensual, hot-blooded, compulsively danceable music is currently enjoying a comeback with young Italo listeners.
Donato, famed as an expert tambourine player, has masochistically given up playing in Zimba’s band, which is on the verge of a record contract via an exec (Nico Cirasola) who comes to a country fair to hear them. The weak and desperate Donato begins to be sucked back into drugs through his bad but very human pal Giovanni (Claudio Giangreco).
Without much fanfare, Paolo Carnera’s lensing focuses on the characters and their raw southern emotions, succinctly communicated in dialect expressions. The story gains added realism and a strong sense of place with shots of graffiti-covered walls and hillsides covered with stone walls and olive trees. A boat trip to Albania underlines the short distance between the two countries and their chilling gangster subcultures.