A broad and sometimes hilarious sendup of plastic surgery and celebrity culture that’s appropriately all smiles, “Il volto di un’altra” is the latest candy-colored, cheerfully over-the-top confection from Italian helmer Pappi Corsicato. Campy South Tyrol-set tale, about a two-faced plastic surgeon and his TV-host wife whose pretty mug is unexpectedly hit by an airborne toilet bowl, revels in its outre plot twists and excesses, down to its rain-of-excrement finale. Slickly made but as much an acquired taste as Corsicato’s previous work, the blustery pic looks set for OK local returns and some niche action offshore.
Corsicato, a Neapolitan choreographer who got his start in film as an assistant on Pedro Almodovar’s “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” (1990), has produced a fairly consistent and highly accessible filmography of gently mordant comedies over the years. But he hasn’t managed to find much of a following beyond home turf — even at sprocket operas, which might unjustly overlook Corsicato’s cleverly ironic elements and see only the lowbrow humor. Fest director Marco Mueller is one of the helmer’s few champions, having awarded Corsicato’s previous pic, “The Seed of Discord,” a Venice competition slot and presented his latest in Rome.
The gorgeous, appropriately named Bella (Laura Chiatti) hosts a TV program on plastic surgery, broadcast directly from the Alpine clinic of her surgeon hubby, the fastidious Rene (Alessandro Preziosi), whose bleached hair perfectly matches his gold-rimmed glasses (everyone, of course, looks particularly elegant). When the channel’s bosses decide they want a new face for their show, Bella is as furious and devastated as only TV starlets can be.
Help soon arrives from an unexpected source: Strapping janitor Tru Tru (Lino Guanciale) accidentally loses a toilet bowl from the back of his truck, and the sanitary fixture subsequently crashes through Bella’s windshield and messes up her lovely countenance. This gives the conniving couple an idea: Bella can not only claim a huge insurance payout, but also have her appearance redone on air by Rene, allowing her to continue as the new face of her own show.
If this all sounds outrageous and silly, rest assured it is. As usual, Corsicato’s brand of satire relies mainly on exaggeration, though “Volto” is hardly a loose collection of potshots aimed at photogenic smallscreen stars and the culture of fame for fame’s sake.
The streamlined screenplay (by the helmer, producer Gianni Romoli, and co-scribes Monica Rametta and Daniele Orlando) is a hysterically pitched yet fluid and coherent narrative, inspired by such disparate elements as hospital soaps, John Waters movies and reality-TV tropes. Even a seemingly random, chuckle-inducing aside, such as a performance by a group of singing mountain ventriloquists, ties into the film’s themes of appearance and make-believe, the general underlying message being that good looks aren’t in the end worth, well … shit. Literally.
Chiatti (“Somewhere”), Guanciale (“To Rome with Love”) and especially Preziosi (“Loose Cannons”) put their straight-acting skills to good use here, while Corsicato muse Iaia Forte gets a smaller but no less inspired role as a nutso nun-cum-nurse who compulsively distributes laxatives to the clinic’s strategically bandaged customers.
D.p. Italo Petriccione, reunited with Corsicato for the first time since 1995’s “Black Holes,” is in on the joke, and lights everything so abundantly that none of the stars seem to have a single wrinkle among them. The rest of the tech package, including its potpourri score of pre-existing music, is equally sparkling.
The original title, untranslated on the print caught, means “The Face of Another (Woman),” though “About Face” may be a more appropriate English meaning.