Dr. Coatta/Giacane/ Elio Antonio Rezza
Tarcisia Isabella Ferrari
Ida Valeria Golino
Sabrina Valentina Cervi
Lauretta Claudia Gerini
Four high-profile Italian actresses, including Valeria Golino and promising newcomer Valentina Cervi (“The Portrait of a Lady”), lend their services to a stupefyingly misguided project in “Escoriandoli.” The feature debut of Antonio Rezza and Flavia Mastrella a creative team known for their video and theater work is a shrill, unmodulated absurdist comedy that earned the dubious distinction in Venice of having the fest’s highest walkout rate.
Badly miscalculating the charms of co-writer/director Rezza, the pic places him center-screen throughout the duration, limning a series of unconnected characters in non sequitur situations. First up is a funeral, during which the widow (Isabella Ferrari) is seduced by her Australian brother-in-law (Rezza) while her husband’s corpse stimulates them with constant comments. Next comes a woman (Golino) who abandons her loveless marriage for a virile undertaker (Rezza), only to watch him age precipitously as her husband finds new youth and vigor.
Another story concerns a poet (Rezza) who steps on a fellow passenger’s foot on a bus. While his photographer g.f. (Claudia Gerini) documents the events, he attempts to apologize, but the wounded party’s dismissal of the incident as a mere accident prevents him from feeling truly forgiven and sends him into a spiral of paranoia. The only halfway interesting segment concerns a draconian school for social conditioning run by an unscrupulous woman (Rezza) whose job is to strip the individuality from a young girl (Cervi).
The garishly colorful pic comes from the same independent production house that backed Daniele Cipri and Franco Maresco’s “The Uncle From Brooklyn,” which anchored its bizarre vision of post-apocalypse Sicily in a reality of poverty, crime and corruption. The makers of “Escoriandoli” show none of the rigorousness nor the intelligence of those filmmakers, merely troweling on one grotesque sketch after another with seemingly no thought to an overall design.
Golino, Cervi, Ferrari and Gerini, who emerged as a major national star in 1995’s top-grossing “Honeymoon Trips,” all go with the nonsensical spirit of the enterprise. Their apparent commitment to such a tiresomely one-note and plainly uncommercial undertaking is as mystifying as how it happened to be financed.