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My Brother-in-law

A fast-patter comedy that goes from light to dark, helmer Alessandro Piva's "My Brother-in-Law" will look familiar to those who saw domestic hit "Theheadisspinning" (LaCapaGira), Piva's earlier collaboration with screenwriting brother Andrea.

A fast-patter comedy that goes from light to dark, helmer Alessandro Piva’s “My Brother-in-Law” will look familiar to those who saw domestic hit “Theheadisspinning”
(LaCapaGira), Piva’s earlier collaboration with screenwriting brother Andrea. New pic again spins a comic caper out of a seemingly hopeless pursuit (this time for a stolen car), takes place in the coastal city of Bari and makes effective use of the near-impenetrable local dialect (which even Italians need subtitles to understand). A shaggy-dog story that bares fangs at the end, film is too slight to travel far theatrically but could add Mediterranean flavor to fests abroad.

Plot plays like a cross between Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” and Dino Risi’s classic odd-couple-in-a-car comedy “Il sorpasso” (1962). Given some careful script reworking and casting, pic could easily be transposed to, say, the American South for a U.S. remake.

Suburban yuppie Vito Quaranta (Luigi Lo Cascio) has his brand new Corsa automobile stolen while he’s attending a family christening in Bari. His wife, Anna (Mariangela Arcieri), insists that her brother, Toni Catapano (Sergio Rubini), a minor mob capo in a canary-yellow suit, help Vito recover his car using his underworld connections.

The two bickering brothers-in-law go off, meeting a variety of major and minor crims along the way. A running gag has nearly everyone Vito meets deducing he’s not from Bari since he doesn’t speak the local lingo, looks squarer than a silicon chip and reported the car theft to the cops — something the street-savvy natives would never do.

But Vito soon realizes his cocky brother-in-law is himself in major trouble involving another gangster, named Marlonbrando, and has angered local kingpin Nicola (Rino Diana). The nature of the trouble is never spelt out exactly; the roundabout way the gangsters speak keep both Vito and the audience in the dark.

Vito and Toni gradually develop a kind of wary mutual admiration, if not outright friendship. But the final seemingly sunny outcome is immediately subverted by tragedy that genre-savvy viewers will see coming several miles back up the road.

A dispensable subplot concerns Vito’s wife, Anna, stuck holding the baby when Toni’s wife, Chicca (Alessandra Sarno), goes off for a quickie.

Perfs make or break a patter-heavy plot like this, and Rubini and Lo Cascio complement each other well, the former outwardly swaggering but suggesting an inner terror just with a tiny furrow of his brows, the latter gradually loosening up as he warms to his brother-in-law’s milieu.

Clearly thinking there’s no need to fix what ain’t broke, Piva has hired on many of the same key personnel who worked on “Theheadisspinning,” including d.p. Gian Enrico Bianchi, editor Thomas Woschitz and composer Ivan Iusco. Bianchi’s rich lensing is especially deft, creating eerie atmosphere in pic’s many exterior night scenes, using neon lights for dramatic coloration, and casting a sickly florescent hue on interiors when events turn ominous.

My Brother-in-law

Italy

  • Production: A RAI Cinema, Dada Film, Seminal Film production. (International sales: RAI Trade, Rome.) Produced by Giovanni Veronesi. Directed by Alessandro Piva. Screenplay, Andrea Piva, Alessandro Piva, Salvatore De Mola.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Gian Enrico Bianchi; editor, Thomas Woschitz; music, Ivan Iusco; art director, Marianna Sciveres; costumes, Francesca Leondeff; sound (Dolby Digital), Tullio Morganti. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande), Aug. 9, 2003. Running time: 90 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Sergio Rubini, Luigi Lo Cascio, Mariangela Arcieri, Alessandra Sarno, Gigi Angelillo, Carolina Felline, Nicola Valenzano, Rino Diana.