More than 10 years after “Mediterraneo,” director Gabriele Salvatores docks at another island, Ibiza, where rampant commercialism exists side by side with ex-hippies, fishermen and artists. Salvatores has always been interested in characters that step outside the rigid confines of urban society to find their own avenue of escape. But the idea of exploring a conflicted culture of natural beauty and artificial lifestyles is forgotten in “Amnesia,” an inconsistent comedy-thriller that strives to juice up the proceedings with hip stylistic touches and half-baked pulp-crime characters. A modest profile looms in Euro markets.
The film has the feel of a hasty stopgap project. It’s considerably smaller in scale and less ambitious than Salvatores’ previous two features, “Nirvana” and “Teeth” as well as his long-planned but subsequently aborted English-language debut, “Calcutta Chromosome.”
However, while the project may seem underreaching by Salvatores’ standards, ironically it could have worked better by aiming even lower. The most successful part of “Amnesia” is its breezy opening stretch, which plays like lightweight Italian comedy material redressed with directorial flair.
Italians long-settled in Ibiza, Sandro (Diego Abatantuono) is a porn film director and Angelino (Sergio Rubini) runs a beachside watering hole. The buoyant early action tracks Sandro’s efforts to hide his professional activity from visiting teenage daughter Luce (Martina Stella), who stuns her father with the news she’s pregnant. At the same time, Angelino desperately seeks a buyer for a cocaine stash he came upon after inadvertently causing a big-time dealer’s death in a car crash: He hopes the cash will help him start a new life and family with his lover (Maria Jurado).
Just when the scenario becomes interesting and the comedy has settled into an agreeable rhythm, Salvatores and co-scripter Andrea Garello literally rewind the action back to day one to chronicle a different set of overlapping events. Told in a much more edgy tone, the double-p.o.v. narrative seems inspired structurally by Quentin Tarantino’s films.
Principal plotline in the second variation concerns the island police chief (Juanjo Puigcorbe) investigating the dealer’s death and his rebellious, delinquent son, Jorge (Ruben Ochandiano). In violent conflict with his father, who threatens to block his plans to escape to California, Jorge finds blackmail fodder when he learns of his father’s affair with a young male dancer at Amnesia, the club where the climactic action unfolds.
While the characters all figure in both strands, the stories are poorly meshed and uncomplimentary, with neither one shedding much light on the other. The main theme seems to be prickly father-offspring relationships and family divisions. But the crime element gets in the way.
The ill-assorted jumble is made worse by a series of misconceived peripheral characters. Some fail to register, such as a lonely restaurant owner (Alessandra Martines); others lack credibility.
Both Italian leads have worked often with Salvatores. Rubini’s nervous comic energy is well harnessed in an enjoyably manic role, while Abatantuono’s boisterousness is a little overbearing and unrestrained. Stella, who emerged in last year’s megahit “The Last Kiss,” shows limited range here as the daughter; so, too, Martines, who’s known for her work with Claude Lelouch but is inexpressive as the restaurant owner, her first Italian film role in years.
Spanish veteran Puigcorbe brings some dramatic weight and authority to the part of the police chief, and Ochandiano makes druggy, scornful punk Jorge a menacing livewire. The film’s original version mixes Italian and Spanish dialogue according to the characters’ backgrounds; however, the Italian release version includes only a smattering of Spanish.
Camerawork by Salvatores’ regular d.p., Italo Petriccione, is typically accomplished and bristling with vitality; likewise, Massimo Fiocchi’s editing is full of smooth dissolves and inventive wipes. However, the use of split screen, while eye-catching at first, is excessive and fulfills no function within the narrative.