A pithy debut crime feature about a postmodern neo-realist gang that can’t think straight, “theheadisspinning” is the first film to be shot in the Italian street dialect unique to Bari, a coastal town in the Puglia region, roughly on the Achilles’ heel of the boot. Although verbal humor is largely lost on those who don’t understand or speak the lingo (including, apparently, a sizable percentage of Italians), the operatic screaming fits that punctuate the deadpan perfs — spot-on across the board — and clean, if somewhat pokey, pace provides lotsa laughs once the distinctive rhythm is established. Independently financed low-budgeter, already a hit in the only town in the world where it doesn’t need subtitles, will have appeal both domestically and at fests but seems too slight to play many multiplexes.
Stuffed down the toilet of a hurtling train when the Balkan mule couldn’t get the window open in time to throw it on his mark, a kilo or so of cocaine has gone missing on the railroad tracks in the Adriatic gateway to all kinds of vices and those who supply them. Slow-witted boss Nino (Mimmo Mancini), who spends most of his time driving around listening to thudding dance music, sends his equally obtuse henchmen Minuicchio (Dino Abbrescia) and Pinuccio (Mino Barbarese) to look for the package. Meanwhile, Sabino (Dante Marmone) and Pasquale (Paolo Sassanelli) guard the hidden and illegal video poker parlor from outsiders and cops, kibitzing with the locals and staring off into space when their services aren’t required. Action, such as it is, revolves around the quest for the dope and the fallout from its tardy arrival.
The Sopranos these guys ain’t, but the unique speech patterns and physical rhythms of the actors become almost hypnotic over time, led by the slow-burn glare of TV star Mancini and Marmone’s vacuous stare.
A year from idea to print, this rare Italian independent production was shot over four weeks for less than 300 million lira ($ 15,000) using local talent and 16mm equipment (the 35mm blowup is fine). Original title, “LaCapaGira,” uttered at key moments, refers to excitable types — which these characters are capable of being, to fine comic effect.