A populist beach in the border city of Trieste is “The Last Resort,” Thanos Anastopoulos and Davide Del Degan’s affectionately quirky, over-long documentary tracking the fusty establishment’s regulars over the course of a year. Drawn to La Lanterna (the locals call it “El Pedocin”) by its aura of time past – the beach still has a dividing wall separating men and women – the directors use a purely observational approach, forgoing narration or commentary of any sort. Since Trieste retains significant Austro-Hungarian cultural roots, the city’s unique make-up adds a level of other-ness which the filmmakers are happy to foreground by focusing on the beach’s more eccentric denizens. Docu festivals will be the only ones not put off by the protracted running time.
El Pedocin isn’t exactly a pretty beach, more pebbles than sand, and large ferries ply the waters nearby. But it is adjacent to the heart of the city, attracting an older, not exactly upmarket crowd (entry costs €1) who re-congregate year after year. For most, one of the key attractions is that men and women are separated: Some say it’s the last such establishment in Italy, others say the last in Europe. Not that anything untoward happens; rather, the regulars enjoy the solidarity of the same-sex space, where there’s no need to show off and everyone is at ease.
Over the course of the two hours and fifteen minutes, people schmooze. Sometimes the ladies play cards, sometimes the men speak of the past, but all in all, the rhythms of life are awfully repetitive. Towards the beginning there’s talk of Trieste soon after the war, when Italy lost most of the Istrian coast to Yugoslavia and families found themselves divided by an international border, but this forms just a small part of the film, whose goal isn’t to provide a potted history of the communities but document an anomalous survival from another era.
Seasons change, the beach crowd swells and then diminishes, leaving only the most colorful regulars (or at least those are the people Anastopoulos and Del Degan focus on). Dialogue is a mixture of Triestine dialect – incomprehensible to most outside the region – and Italian, which adds an additional bit of flavor. Visuals are attractive, yet a feeling of sameness runs throughout, despite the shifts in light as the seasons change.