A famed acting duo from Italy’s Fascist era gets the traditional biopic treatment in Marco Tullio Giordana’s disappointing “Wild Blood.” One of those nagging projects that sat so long on hold that the normally nuanced helmer no longer has any distance, pic plays like small screen melodrama, toying with the fascist/partisan conflict in only the most superficial ways while aiming to rehabilitate the famed couple with an unconvincing explanation for the accusations that led to their execution. Home biz should be reasonably strong, but this bloodless pic won’t be coursing through the arthouse world.
Pic’s Cannes berth won’t do “Wild Blood” any favors, since pushing such standard fare as if it’s chateaubriand is bound to raise expectations that might have been less demanding had it opened simply as a major local release. In Italy, political hot potato issues like the less-than-angelic behaviour of the anti-fascist partisans, not to mention the current rise of the far right, will generate the kinds of parallel buzz offshore ears aren’t attuned to, but even then Giordana’s surprisingly wet treatment adds nothing incisive or complex to the debates.
Many liberties have been taken with the historical record. Brash coke-head screen star Osvaldo Valenti (Luca Zingaretti) finds movie extra Luisa Manfrini (Monica Bellucci) more than fetching. Aristocratic anti-Fascist helmer Golfiero Goffredo (Alessio Boni) is also taken with the charmer, though his Henry Higgins interest is apparently chaste. With her name changed to Luisa Ferida, he launches her career as a star of the first order in the popular mellers and historical epics of the period.
Something about Valenti’s explosive charm proves irresistible to the beautiful Ferida, and they become inseparable, neither paying attention to the political order though she has a protector in Cardi (Luigi Diberti), the fascist director general of the motion picture industry. When Mussolini falls in Rome, Valenti and Ferida head north, where the Fascists still rule in the Republic of Salo. An evening socializing (and more) with notorious Nazi collaborator Pietro Koch (Paolo Bonanni) leads to the mistaken belief that the glamorous couple were involved in the torture of anti-fascist prisoners.
All this is told with frequent shifts forward in time, to April 1945 when Valenti and Ferida surrendered to Golfiero, codenamed Taylor, and his band of partisans. Apparently Golfiero (a completely fictional character), maintains a passion for Ferida despite his homosexuality, and tries to convince his bloodthirsty compatriots that the couple weren’t the Fascist sympathizers rumor claims.
Unfortunately, the flashback structure just feels tired, and characterizations are less than penetrating. Valenti is playful and bellicose but everything, even his cocaine addiction, is surface, while Ferida’s emotional core is empty: who are these people, and where is their three-dimensionality? There’s something ironic, even distasteful, about Giordana poking fun at Ferida’s movies, when the current pic only pretends to be so something beyond a standard meller and sits uncomfortably on the fence regarding the protags’ politics. Sex scenes are especially poor.
Bellucci moves beautifully through the glamorous locations, carrying off ’40s fashion with style, but without a real character beneath her lipstick and turbans she makes little more than a superficial impression. Ditto Zingaretti, while Boni has little to do except look reverential and sad-eyed. Luigi Lo Cascio and Sonia Bergamasco make cameo appearances, the former as a stern-faced executioner convinced of his righteousness.
Giordana’s regular d.p. Roberto Forza gives the whole a handsome, slick appearance without adding any additional layers, and the whole appears trapped in a historical film framework. Occasional B&W newsreel footage helps reinforce the period and leads to a few nice blac-and-white passages, though the opening oddly plays like a festival trailer. Music begins with rich orchestrations but frequently veers into the overly sentimental.