Sicilian sensuality gets a handsome but emotionally unengaging treatment in “La Lupa,” the tale of one woman’s inadvertent war on sexual inhibition. Set in a rural 19th century village, film boasts a lush pictorialism that doesn’t wholly compensate for dramatic weaknesses but should help assure festival and Eurotube interest.
Pic’s story suffers mainly from being more literary and schematic than convincingly specific. Pina (Monica Guerritore) is presented as a “she-wolf,” a woman so headstrong and passionate that she constantly runs afoul of the traditional morality in a Sicilian farming village that has been little changed by recent historical trends. As if to prove her irremediable hedonism, she even seduces the local priest, a role brief enough to allow veteran thesp Giancarlo Giannini to make a vivid impression before exiting quickly.
Pina’s next seduction, which occupies tale’s remainder, is a handsome local lad named Nanni (Raoul Bova). When he returns from a stint in the army and she sees how military life has improved his impressive physique, she’s determined to have him.
That Nanni only wants to marry and settle down plays into her scheme. Pina allows her daughter, Mara (Alessia Fugardi), who’s as meek as Mom is wild, to marry the young man. Naturally, that’s not a recipe for family harmony, but it does bring Pina’s prey within easy reach.
Helmer Gabriele Lavia brings visual flair aplenty to this tale’s operatic sweep and movement. Pic has a gorgeously fluid and nuanced look, and Ennio Morricone’s fine score provides an apt musical backdrop. But stylistic distinction can’t overcome the fact that the Sicily depicted here is an overworked cliche, with inhabitants who play as types rather than recognizable humans.
Even an Anna Magnani would have had a hard time making Pina three-dimensional , and though Guerritore has a spirited go at it, the character remains a bloodless conceit. Other actors are similarly competent. Remaining tech credits reflect production’s general sheen.