A rich Parisian, who will become obscenely wealthy upon the imminent death of her Italian industrialist father, tries to make sense of her life in “It’s Easier for a Camel…”. Directing debut by thesp Valeria Bruni Tedeschi gives Euro-style ambient guilt over money a sensitive and bittersweet (if slightly overlong) treatment that’s worth a detour. Fantasy sequences, including animation, keep the melancholy tone from overwhelming the proceedings. Pic, which preems in Gaul April 16 and is also slated for N.Y.’s Tribeca fest, should find an audience in France and Italy, and possibly beyond.
Federica (Bruni Tedeschi) has taken to hopping into her silver Jaguar to confess her fiscal discomfort to a priest (Pascal Bongard), who finally blurts out that he’s not a shrink. Flashbacks gradually establish that Federica — along with older brother Aurelio (Lambert Wilson) and younger sister Bianca (Chiara Mastroianni) — was brought to France as a child to escape the kidnappings to which the Italian ruling class was prey in the ’70s. The siblings, whose money hasn’t bought them equilibrium, let alone happiness, are all emotional cripples.
It’s summer in Paris, and their father (Roberto Herlitzka) is in the hospital, breathing his last. Their slightly oblivious mother (Marysa Borini) is coping, while Bianca is cranky and dissatisfied. Meanwhile, the laconic Aurelio is summoned back from his latest trip around the world, an exploit he’s already completed “in the other direction” as he nonchalantly explains to Pierre (Jean-Hugues Anglade), Federica’s working-class boyfriend.
Pic is composed of vignettes in which nominal playwright Federica — an essentially kind but easily flustered soul — wrestles with her feelings about death, duty and cash while getting reacquainted with her long-absent former love, Philippe (Denis Podalydes). Latter is still attracted to Federica, but has a wife (Emmanuelle Devos) and a 6-year-old son.
Proceedings are funnier than they sound, as the pic’s portrait of the way-too-well-to-do is inherently amusing. Juggling her patented flake act with helming duties, Bruni Tedeschi passes with flying colors. Her Federica, in this reportedly largely autobiographical tale, is lucid enough to know she should be enjoying her good fortune instead of battling constant guilt and emotional disarray.
Summery lensing makes excellent use of Paris streets. Score of mostly piano-based classical music is top notch, and the mix of French and Italian dialogue functions smoothly.
For the record, Borini, who plays the mother, is Bruni Tedeschi’s real-life mom, a first-timer who fits in like a pro.
Title is drawn from Matthew 19:24: “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”