Globe-trotting writer-director Wolf Gaudlitz once worked (as an actor) with Fellini on 1983’s “And the Ship Sails On … .” That influence bears heavily on “Palermo Whispers,” latest — and, he says, last — of several features he’s shot in the Sicilian capital. Free-form hymn to the city’s historic beauty, violence and eccentricity is ephemerally diverting, though its mild surrealisms lack the distinctive personality of the master it pays tacit homage to. Natural fest item will have a harder time finding viable commercial berth.
Slight premise has an exiled poet (Mimmo Cuticchio) returning to his homeland in advanced middle age — the death of his Mafia-boss father has finally made him immune from assassins. He wanders about picturesque Palermo, perching on statuary, taking notes, watching the city’s types weave in and out of one another’s orbit. Among them are a beauteous blonde on a scooter, the smitten young hooligan who pursues her, plus the expected al fresco opera singers, cafe-idling elders, argumentative housewives, et al. More a dramatized sketchbook than a defined narrative, handsome but just modestly engaging whimsy will work best for viewers with Palermo memories of their own.