You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Venice Film Review: ‘The Obscene Life’

Uninspired visuals and one-dimensional characters do no service to Renato de Maria’s coming-of-age story, described as a psychedelic journey.

Clement Metayer, Isabella Ferrari, Roberto de Francesco, Andrea Renzi, Iaia Forte, Anita Kravos, Eva Riccobono, Valentina Reggio, Vittoria Schisano, Valentina Belle, Duccio Camerini, Piero Cardano. Narrator: Fausto Paravidino.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3438720/

Neither the high-octane energy of “Paz!” nor the liberating freedom of “Love Me” are in evidence in Renato de Maria’s latest, “The Obscene Life.” Based on the autobiographical novel of Aldo Nove (who co-scripted), the pic is described as a psychedelic journey, a coming-of-age story about a 17-year-old poet whose parents’ deaths send him into a tailspin of drugs and depression. Uninspired visuals and one-dimensional characters render the journey tedious, leaving viewers apathetic at best. Local play will depend on buzz (unlikely), while offshore chances are slim outside possible Italo showcases.

A far too pervasive first-person voiceover (by Fausto Paravidino) introduces auds to the protag, Andrea (Clement Metayer), strung out and lying among centerfolds pullouts within a body outline made from cocaine. Flashback to earlier days, when he was a happy dope confident in the love of his hippy mom (Isabella Ferrari) and characterless father (Roberto de Francesco). Things change when his normally sunny mother falls into a deep depression; then in short order dad dies of a stroke, and mom dies of cancer.

This overwhelming loss understandably shakes Andrea to the core, and he plunges into a cycle of drugs and alcohol. The encouragement of a teacher, following soon after a near-death experience from an exploding gas tank, seems to offer a better way out, but then he deliberately overdoses (cue the scene from the beginning). What follows is an extended hallucinogenic haze, lensed with a lackluster understanding of creativity or narrative drive, which partly involves superannuated whores and then, the ultimate degradation, he performs oral sex on a guy. However, “behind every loss is a rebirth,” and somehow Andrea pulls himself together.

Popular on Variety

Cinematic evocations of bad trips have been around for decades, and therefore require some kind of spark to make this rather uninteresting state watchable. Instead, de Maria seems to have lost the mojo of “Paz!,” resorting to usual devices like slow-mo, a little spinning, a little reverse-cam, and trancelike music. Rather than getting inside Andrea’s drug-induced fantasy, the flat visuals are dull, almost as if the helmer meant to work up a few ideas but then needed to lock the picture in a hurry. Floating breakfast items and imagined elephant heads feel merely ho-hum.

Poor sound quality at the screening attended made it impossible to judge tech elements. Music is inexpertly tacked on, and has no follow-through within scenes.

Venice Film Review: 'The Obscene Life'

Reviewed at Casa del Cinema, Rome, Aug. 18, 2014. (In Venice Film Festival — Horizons.) Running time: 82 MIN. (Original title: “La vita oscena”)

Production: (Italy) A Film Vision production, in association with Lebowski, Monochrome, in collaboration with Interfilm, Movimento Film, Afafilm, Passione Film. Produced by Gianluca de Marchi, Fabio Mazzoni. Executive producers, Marco Simon Puccioni, Giampiero Preziosa, Francesca Bonaccorsi, Mario Mazzarotto, Claudio Vecchio, Giorgio Magliulo, Alessandra Acciai.  

Crew: Directed by Renato de Maria. Screenplay, de Maria, Aldo Nove, based on the novel by Nove. Camera (color), Daniele Cipri; editors, Letizia Caudullo, Jacopo Quadri; music, Riccardo Sinigallia, Vittorio Cosma, Gianni Maroccolo, Max Casacci; production designer, Alessandra Mura; costume designers, Jessica Zambelli, Sara Grittini; sound, Maximilien Bernard Gobiet; associate producers, Riccardo Scamarcio, Isabella Ferrari; casting, Francesco Vedovati.

With: Clement Metayer, Isabella Ferrari, Roberto de Francesco, Andrea Renzi, Iaia Forte, Anita Kravos, Eva Riccobono, Valentina Reggio, Vittoria Schisano, Valentina Belle, Duccio Camerini, Piero Cardano. Narrator: Fausto Paravidino.

More Film

  • The Cold Blue

    Erik Nelson Wants to Preserve the Past With 'The Cold Blue' World War II Documentary

    Erik Nelson describes his documentary “The Cold Blue” as “the garage band of movies” — he didn’t have the large team or crew other documentary contenders have. “The Cold Blue” is a World War II documentary that looks at raids and B-17 bombing missions that took place during the war. Nelson’s team looked at 34 [...]

  • Ray Manzarek

    Film News Roundup: Concert-Documentary 'The Doors: Break on Thru' Set for February

    In today’s film news roundup, one-night showings of a Ray Manzarek tribute and the season premiere of “Doctor Who” have been set for 2020, and the MPAA hires a copyright expert. ONE-NIGHT SHOWINGS The Doors and Trafalgar Releasing are teaming on the worldwide Feb. 12 release of “The Doors: Break on Thru – A Celebration [...]

  • Richard Jewell

    Warner Bros. Hits Back at Atlanta Paper Over 'Richard Jewell' Legal Threat

    Warner Bros. is standing behind “Richard Jewell,” the Clint Eastwood drama that is the source of controversy over its portrayal of a female journalist trading sex for scoops. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent a legal threat to the filmmakers on Monday asking them to include a disclaimer noting that the film took dramatic license. In a [...]

  • The Irishman

    'Captain Marvel,' 'The Irishman,' Other Original Scores to Miss Out on Oscar Nominations

    The Regina Spektor song from “Bombshell” and at least six major scores including “The Two Popes” and “The Irishman” won’t be on Oscar’s music shortlists when they are announced next week. That’s because none of them are on the official Academy eligibility lists from which music-branch members are now voting. Preliminary voting ends tomorrow afternoon, [...]

  • Golden Globes Zodiac signs

    Golden Globes Nominees as Zodiac Signs

    The Golden Globes nominees aren’t the only stars of awards season. Variety turned to astrology to assign Zodiac signs to this year’s nominees. Some selections required a little more nuance — Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart” is a Virgo with a prominent Sagittarius rising and Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” is a Sagittarius that wishes it were a [...]

  • Two-time Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks portrays one

    How Production Designer Jade Healy Recreated the Beautiful Neighborhood of Mister Rogers

    Production designer Jade Healy is doing double duty this awards season. For one, her work can be seen in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.” There, she created a world of angst and individuality, making use of negative space as a couple reaches the end of their relationship. In Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content