Big on atmosphere, “Scirocco” is a whimsical Sicilian love story set during Italy’s fascist period, but the adaptation of Domenico Campana’s novel peters out long before it’s done. Although Giancarlo Giannini’s star turn as an eccentric anti-fascist nobleman carries the pic along, lack of narrative development limits interest, and WB’s small domestic release has done little business locally.
The Marquis of Acquafurata (Giannini) secretly returns from Paris to his native Sicily and his ancestral home, passing himself off as his own butler. His plan is to sell the historic palazzo and its collection of antiques, while helping the local anti-fascist movement to rescue the sculptor Modigliani, who is imprisoned on the island of Lampedusa.
To keep the family townhouse out of the fascist party’s hands, he “bequeaths” it to a humble country family. The virtuous young wife, Rosalia (Tiziana Lodato) , soon becomes his obsession and their delicate, offbeat courtship occupies the rest of the film.
The fascists are shown as marionettes in uniform, marching the local boys off to an absurd war in Africa while the anti-fascists drive around town in a red car and the country bumpkins move their chickens into the palace. But the script — penned by Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Salvatore Marcarelli and director Maurizio Sciarra — is missing a strong storyline to work the elements into a meaningful ending.
Sciarra, making his feature helming bow for producer Domenico Procacci, sketches his characters with a refined sense of irony. He gets strong backup from Giannini’s amusing perf as the aristocratic dandy masquerading as a servant , whose seduction of the peasant girl turns into an unlikely June-December passion.
The helmer skillfully uses composer Eugenio Bonnato’s contemporary ethnic score to give the dramatic scenes a tongue-in-cheek edge, while the music is also used to tenderly underline the romantic side of the characters’ small gestures, lovingly picked out by the camera.
Cinematographer Arnaldo Catinari gives the film a very sensual look, contrasting coal-black interiors to the dust, wind and dazzling white light of southern Sicily. Livia Borgognoni’s sets give the Marquis’ ancestral home great character, matching the charm of the old town, while Cecilia Zanuso’s cutting is lively and modern.