Distinctive visionary Paolo Benvenuti (“Secret File”) brings his historical eye to a troublesome period in Puccini’s amorous life in “Puccini and the Girl,” an often ravishing but unengrossing epistolary experiment without interactive dialogue. Set in 1909 when the great composer was working on “La fanciulla del West,” the story investigates the suicide of his maid, accused of an illicit dalliance with the maestro. Benvenuti chooses a quasi-pure cinema approach — words are heard as voiceovers reading letters, or as indistinct muffles — sacrificing comprehension on the altar of unsullied visuals. Music fests with film sidebars will be the likeliest takers.
Puccini’s maid, Doria (Tania Squillario), walks in on the composer’s stepdaughter, Fosca (Debora Mattiello), in flagrante. Anxious to discredit any possible whispers, Fosca tells her mother, Elvira (Giovanna Daddi), that Puccini is having an affair with Doria, when actually he’s stepping out with cafe girl Giulia (Federica Chezzi). Shooting in and around Puccini’s Tuscan villa, Benvenuti has a masterful control of space, while the use of “spherical sound” recording (by Mirco Mencacci) enhances aural pleasures. Print viewed has fascinating actual footage from 1915, of Puccini himself, tacked on at the end.