"To Sleep Next to Her" is an amusing office comedy buoyed by boyishly handsome Giorgio Pasotti's winning performance. Enough chuckles keep everything moving smoothly along, and beneath it all lies a very Italian plea for the importance of life over work. Local prospects are bright, with modest possibilities for offshore revenue.

Behind the awkward title, “To Sleep Next to Her” is an amusing office comedy buoyed by boyishly handsome Giorgio Pasotti’s winning performance. In his solo helming debut, former Fellini assistant Eugenio Cappuccio shows off a lightness of touch and quicksilver timing, though a tightened-up screenplay would weed out more formless sideplots. Still, enough chuckles keep every-thing moving smoothly along, and beneath it all lies a very Italian plea for the importance of life over work. Local prospects are bright, with modest possibilities for offshore revenue.

Corporate trainer Marco Pressi (Pasotti) is the perfect motivational speaker for an international tech company whose slogan is, “People First.” Swanning through sleek offices with a supportive word for everyone, he exudes confidence and wins friends.

Office camaraderie takes a nosedive when a French conglomerate moves in, sending in icy human resources manager Jean Claude (Marcello Catalano) and his dragon-lady assistant Fabienne (Jun Ichikawa, of “Singing Behind Screens”). They dangle a hefty raise, plus benefits, before Marco’s eyes, if he fires 25 people within two months.

Italian labor laws make it extremely difficult to fire people (a colleague tells him “even a monkey could axe someone in America”), so Marco’s task requires the combined skills of diplomat and psychologist to persuade staffers to accept layoff packages just weeks before Christmas.

Pressures rain down from all sides: g.f. Laura (Cristiana Capotondi) is increasingly frustrated by Marco’s lack of emotional in-volvement, he starts toying with vixenish African dancer Angelique (Faju), and his new role as office executioner turns him into an object of fear and contempt.

Pic plays like the comic flip side to “I Like to Work (Mobbing),” a more earnest look at the dehumanizing elements of the corporate world. Cappuccio keeps it light here, but there’s an underlying seriousness in the message of office slash-and-burn tactics coldly playing with peoples’ lives. Occasional lulls come during Marco’s extracurricular hours: his disintegrating relationship with Laura needs fleshing out, and the sexy Angelique is just a distraction in all senses.

Pasotti single-handedly carries the pic as the self-assured office mensch-turned-heartless stooge. Originally a martial arts performer with several kung fu pics under his black belt, Pasotti (“After Midnight”) is developing into an engaging light comedian with a twinkle in his eye.

Stefano Giambanco’s spot-on sets are a plus: the steely office colors evoke the inside pocket of a gray flannel suit, while Marco’s undecorated dump of an apartment makes a nice contrast between his inner and outer lives. Gian Filippo Corticelli’s widescreen lensing highlights the sense of Marco standing alone.

To Sleep Next To Her

Italy

Production

A Mikado release (in Italy) of an AFA Film production. Produced by Claudio Vecchio. Directed by Eugenio Cappuccio. Screenplay, Massimo Lolli, Alessandro Spinaci, based on Lolli's novel.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Gian Filippo Corticelli; editor, Marco Spoletini; production designer, Stefano Giambanco; costume designer, Cristina Francioni; sound (Dolby, DTS), Gaetano Carito; assistant director, Daniele Cascella. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Midnight), Sept. 2, 2004. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Giorgio Pasotti, Cristiana Capotondi, Faju, Ninni Bruschetta, Marcello Catalano, Sabrina Corabi, Giuseppe Gandini, Jun Ichikawa, Eleonora Mazzoni, Massimo Molea, Massimo Olcese, Mariella Valentini, Carlo Freccero.
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