As wispy and languid as a golden afternoon, frosh helmer Alessandro Comodin’s “Summer of Giacomo” is a docu-fiction hybrid that hardcore auteurist auds will find lovely, and most mainstream viewers more temperate. Following the titular deaf teen and a girlfriend as they walk through a sun-dappled forest, splash around in a cool river and visit a carnival as twilight sets in, pic mainly drinks in the sights and sounds, with the only dramatic development — and the possibility of deeper meanings — hidden behind a sudden, late-in-the-game twist. Locarno’s Filmmaker of the Present competish prize should help extend the film’s fest season.
Good-looking Italo youngsters Giacomo (Giacomo Zulian) and Stefania (Stefania Comodin) enjoy each other’s company as they walk through a densely wooded area that’s more akin to an Edenic jungle than a northern Italian woodland (the film was shot in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, bordering Slovenia).
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The two are in search of a place to access the river so they can go swimming, and have brought along only a small bag containing two towels and their lunch. Dialogue between Stefania and the mercurial, almost childlike Giacomo is on the light side, their conversations consisting of short commentary on what they see or do, and the nonsensical banter typical of people who know each other well. But despite their easy rapport and the casual sensuality inherent in playing silly games in and near the water in skimpy swimwear, the exact nature of their relationship is never explicitly stated.
Pic’s handheld, single-camera footage occasionally means things happen (at least partially) offscreen and precludes shot/reverse shot edits. The slowed-down editing rhythm suits the unhurried narrative; Giacomo and Stefi take the pic’s first 15 minutes to just find the river. Tempo is also in tune with the lazy summer day the protags are experiencing; Comodin seems to suggest that what is being shown is not a special day, but one like many others before and after it.
Narrative stasis is crudely and deliberately undercut by the pic’s final reel, in which Giacomo is again at the same riverside location, though now accompanied by another girl (Barbara Colombo), who is also deaf. A jarring shift in perspective throws the preceding events into a different light, suggesting the loss of something innocent and paradisiacal, but Comodin offers few clues as to how the two uneven parts fit together — or whether they even occurred in the order in which they are shown.
Documentary-like feel is reinforced by the natural poise of the non-pro leads, with Zulian a photogenic, somewhat enigmatic presence throughout. Unforced lensing on 16mm looked fine at the digital projection caught, while other tech contributions are in line with the pic’s small budget. No production designer or costume designer was mentioned in the credits, which, in retro fashion, all unspool at the start of the film.