Up-and-coming Italo talent Pasquale Pozzessere (“Verso Sud”) directs a finely realistic tale of Genoa’s working class in “Father and Son.” This confident, sure-handed effort is slow but likable. Its very specific setting marks it as an art film built to travel, and pic should turn up in many fest venues. Pace could be an obstacle to foreign pickups, but it’s definitely worth a look.
Pozzessere and co-scripter Roberto Tiraboschi meticulously embed the generational conflict between father Corrado (Michele Placido) and son Gabriele (suave newcomer Stefano Dionisi) in the heart of working-class Genoa. The characters are introduced as part of a landscape: the port, the factories and little shops like the dry cleaner’s where Corrado’s wife works.
Now nearing retirement, Corrado works in the port as a night watchman, but his heart is still in the factory where he spent most of his working life. He manages to procure Gabriele, just out of the army, a job in his old plant, but the youth quits. Decision to find his own path provokes a rift that is only partly healed at film’s end.
Film makes several references to politics, particularly via old-fashioned militant Corrado. In one amusing scene, he speaks pidgin Russian to some Ukrainian sailors, who reproachfully remind him they aren’t part of the Soviet Union anymore. A young lawyer also reminds Corrado the factories aren’t the focal point for class struggle anymore. His son, typical to his generation and much to Corrado’s disgust, is apolitical.
While Placido gamely mimes his role of a remarried paterfamilias with an authority complex, it’s young Dionisi who strikes a noteworthy balance between a realistic perf (he learned to speak with a Genoese accent for the part) and budding stardom, sporting a very modern type of earnest vulnerability.
Also modern are several understated but sexy scenes in which Dionisi casually trysts with two girlfriends (Claudia Gerini, Giusy Consoli). Like the young stepmother (Enrica Origa), they’re nicely individualized characters who hold a few surprises.
Film’s painstaking realism consistently earns points, while splendid lensing by Bruno Cascio captures a moody atmosphere and reveals Pozzessere’s concern with technique. Many key scenes are filmed at night, by the light of ships in the harbor or the neon of game parlors and discotheques. Music ranges eclectically from a mellow jazz score to an exotic African beat.
Film’s downside is a slow, step-by-step pace that lacks forward drive.