Review: ‘Never Ending Night’

Theatrical monologues dressed up as performance art lead to pretentious results in writer-director Elisabetta Sgarbi's feature debut, "Never Ending Night." Despite boasting topflight thesps Laura Morante and Anna Bonaiuto, as well an impressive literary pedigree, this uncinematic yawnfest does a disservice to all.

Theatrical monologues dressed up as performance art lead to pretentious results in writer-director Elisabetta Sgarbi’s feature debut, “Never Ending Night.” Despite boasting topflight thesps Laura Morante and Anna Bonaiuto, as well an impressive literary pedigree, this uncinematic yawnfest does a disservice to all. Sgarbi’s powerful connections — her politician brother is Italy’s most famous cultural pundit and she is a literary editor — guaranteed a local distrib deal, plus published screenplay in all bookstores. However, opening B.O. barely covered the window display costs.

Three parts (“Love,” “Betrayal,” “Incest”) are connected solely by their over-dramatic lighting, as the near-motionless camera blankly registers emotions in poetic prose. Clad in shiny black Armani and Costume National, four actors deliver their lines amid barely distinguishable bits of architecture, their faces periodically cast in darkness. The normally excellent Galatea Ranzi chews the scenery as writer Amin Maalouf’s love-struck Princess of Tripoli; Toni Servillo and Morante fare slightly better as Tahar Ben Jelloun’s troubled couple plagued by thoughts of betrayal. Final section, with Bonaiuto in Hanif Kureishi’s inner dialogue of daughter/stepfather incest, feels pointless. Bad lip-synching throughout doesn’t help.

Never Ending Night

Italy

Production

An Istituto Luce release of an Istituto Luce, Betty Wrong production. Produced by Betty Wrong, Elisabetta Sgarbi. Directed, written by Elisabetta Sgarbi, based on stories by Amin Maalouf, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Hanif Kureishi.

Crew

Camera (color), Elio Bisignani; editor, Luciano Marenzoni; music, Roberto Cacciapaglia; costume designers, Angela Leggiero, Rosanna Gambini. Reviewed at Turin Film Festival (competing), Nov. 16, 2004. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Laura Morante, Anna Bonaiuto, Galatea Ranzi, Toni Servillo.
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