Italy’s notoriously crass television culture comes in for pointed digs in “Boris — The Film,” a largely successful full-length expansion of the eponymous hit TV show. Set among a smallscreen tech crew making its first highbrow feature, the pic is loaded with winking laughs that paint an unflattering portrait of Italo auds and media, though the trio of scripters-helmers — Giacomo Ciarrapico, Mattia Torre, Luca Vendruscolo, all vets of the series — occasionally dull the sharpness with farce rather than satire. Local biz has been surprisingly muted, and offshore play will be limited given the amount of inside jokes.
Successful TV director Rene Ferretti (Francesco Pannofino) walks off the set of “The Young Ratzinger” (seen in a hilarious, brief clip), unable to take such ridiculous pablum anymore. He’s jobless for three months until location manager Sergio (Alberto Di Stasio) tells him he’s got the film rights to a new “Gomorrah”-like book, called “The Caste,” about Italo political corruption. Rene sees his chance to realize something worthy, and dumps his regular crew for the chance to work with real artists.
At the start, Rene’s charged with excitement, thrilled to be working in cinema and overjoyed that his star is serious actress Marilita Loy (Rosanna Gentili, doing a very funny parody of Margherita Buy). But nothing goes smoothly: The crew walks off, replaced by his usual TV team, and he soon discovers that good intentions aren’t enough to forestall compromises when the Italo film biz itself has jettisoned artistic integrity for the lucrative lure of vulgarity.
It’s refreshing to see an Italian pic aiming torpedoes at the infantile crudeness that characterizes so many comedies from the peninsula: two scenes at the cinema, with auds in stitches over tasteless jokes while only Rene, and later assistant director Arianna (Caterina Guzzanti), watch in stony-faced silence, succinctly demonstrate the problem. Since those comedies are boffo hits, why should studios put money into anything else? “Boris” skewers this situation with surprisingly little exaggeration, hiding its bitterness beneath a blanket of absurdity.
An occasional unevenness in tone is likely due to the trio of helmers, and certain jokes and characters, beloved from the TV series, are stretched beyond reasonable screen time. So Stanis (Pietro Sermonti), an actor convinced everyone loves his impression of politico Gainfranco Fini, turns up far too often, rendering an amusing side-strand overdone. The smoothness of the ensemble work speaks of the pic’s smallscreen roots, yet the writing is strong enough that viewers unfamiliar with the show won’t feel left out.
Lensing is attractive and brisk, with nice delineations in color tonalities to signal the movie within the movie. Music is well integrated, including an amusing theme song containing key lines from the script, such as an axiom elucidating the descending hierarchy of Italian media, where TV is top: “After cinema there’s radio, after radio there’s death.” Boris is the name of Rene’s goldfish and good-luck charm.