Review: ‘Raining Cows’

Avoiding the sentimental or lurid pitfalls habitually associated with pics featuring the disabled, "Raining Cows" recognizes complex relationships between staff and patients without ever getting preachy. First time helmer Luca Vendruscolo skillfully blends actors with non-professionals, imbuing most with complex personalities and making the viewer question who is in control.

Avoiding the sentimental or lurid pitfalls habitually associated with pics featuring the disabled, “Raining Cows” recognizes complex relationships between staff and patients without ever getting preachy. First time helmer Luca Vendruscolo skillfully blends actors with non-professionals, imbuing most with complex personalities and making the viewer question who is in control. This lowbudgeter deserves consideration by fests looking for new Italian talent.

Opting for community work as an alternative to mandatory Italian military service, Matteo (Alessandro Tiberi) expects an easy job, like as a museum guard. Instead, he’s placed in an under-staffed home for the handicapped. Untrained, Matteo is an easy target for manipulation, especially by quadriplegic criminal Renato (an intense Marcello Sanna), who cruelly plays with his good will. Similarly, wheelchair-bound sex bomb Beatrice (Barbara Bonanni) enjoys toying with Matteo.

However, the staff members are also not above taking advantage of their charges, and their irresponsible antics vividly convey the topsy-turvy games played between the controlled and the controlling. The patients in this home do not want to be condescended to or infantilized. At an event for his birthday, Franco (Franco Ravera) angrily shouts at the singers whose false happiness would be more appropriate for a children’s party or at a home for senile adults.

As Matteo, Tiberi is terrific in portraying the helplessness of a guy thrown far out of his depth and forced to swim. One especially good scene has Matteo initially panicking at the incontinence of an embarrassed patient (Luca Dionisi) but then shifting to playfulness as he slowly recognizes the matter’s unimportance.

A parallel story of Corrado (Massimo De Lorenzo), who’s also been assigned to the home, is never completely integrated and feels tacked on; and the spiritual leader of the home (Don Anselmo) borders on caricature. But, overall, Vendruscolo captures the barrenness of institutional settings and humanizes the environment by fleshing out the residents, endowing each with a very different personality.

Blowup from 16mm is good.

Raining Cows

Italy

Production

A Pablo release of an Axelotil Film. (International sales: Pablo, Rome.) Produced by Gianluca Arcopinto. Directed by Luca Vendruscolo. Screenplay by Filippo Bellizzi, Marco Damilano, Massimo De Lorenzo, Marco Marafini, Mattia Torre, Vendruscolo.

Crew

Camera (color, 16mm-to-35mm), Luca Coassin; editor, Luca Benedetti; music, Giuliano Taviani; production designer, Valentina Scalia; costume designer, Fiamma Benvignati, sound (DTS), Fabrizio Andreucci. Reviewed at Nuovo Olimpia, Rome, April 7, 2003. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Alessandro Tiberi, Massimo De Lorenzo, Luca Amorosino, Andrea Sartoretti, Mattia Torre, Barbara Bonanni, Franco Ravera, Marcello Sanna, Luca Dionisi, Domenico Battaglia, Mira Monadoschi, Maria Santilli, Evelina Meghnagi, Guido Roncalli, Paolo Lombardi, Don Anselmo.
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