×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Naples ’44’

Benedict Cumberbatch narrates this affectionate yet misguided tribute to Norman Lewis’ towering diary of his year in Naples at the end of WWII.

With:
Narration: Benedict Cumberbatch. (English dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3886508/reference

Francesco Patierno (“The War of the Volcanoes”) assembles an impressive amount of footage shot in Naples at the end of World War II to illustrate his affectionate tribute to Norman Lewis’ towering memoir “Naples ’44.” Getting Benedict Cumberbatch on board as the narrator reading Lewis’ words is perhaps an even greater coup, yet the documentary is a weak, at times painfully misguided attempt to capture the great writer’s humane memoir of his year in Naples as a British soldier with the Intelligence Corps. Undoubtedly this movie will turn up on the History Channel or similar broadcast outlets, but the best outcome will be a spike in book sales rather than film rentals.

Lewis was 35 when he was posted from North Africa to newly liberated Naples in September 1943; he arrived to witness a city on its knees, devastated physically and morally from Fascism, severe bombings, the Nazi occupation, and then the Allied takeover. Lewis was assigned to investigate all manner of misbehavior by a populace whose social fabric had been torn to shreds, and he did so with sensitivity and an affection inseparably mingled with melancholy reflections on the war’s toll.

Patierno chooses a large selection of passages from Lewis’ diary (which wasn’t published until 1978), revealing the author’s interactions with the locals and his shock at how a proud population had been scarred by years of battle fatigue. Yet despite Cumberbatch’s warmly voiced intonations, the words often lose their beauty and power since the documentary has no sense of rhythm – where a reader can linger on especially poignant passages, musing on Lewis’ profoundly shaken understanding of man’s inhumanity to man, the film simply moves along, jumping from humbled aristocrats to middle class women prostituting themselves to Neapolitan kleptomania without the pauses necessary to take it all in.

Equally problematic is that Patierno doesn’t limit himself to using nonfiction footage but throws in clips from “The Four Days of Naples,” “Catch-22” and “Il re di Poggioreale,” among others, throwing the viewer completely out of Lewis’ world and substituting his reality for Ernest Borgnine and Keenan Wynn. For Italian audiences, it’s especially injudicious to use clips from movies starring the great comedian Totò whenever Lewis talks of his friend and informer Lattarulo, as it needlessly conflates the memoir’s dignified yet ambiguous figure with a clown. Curiously, Lewis’ not infrequent passages about massive corruption among the Allied officers are largely absent, and his gut-wrenching evocation of the female population’s degradation is passed over far too quickly.

Presumably to make the documentary more “accessible,” Patierno includes images of an actor walking through Naples, standing in for Lewis himself, who died in 2003. While certainly superior to the recreations that currently afflict nearly all TV documentaries, these serve little purpose.

Film Review: 'Naples '44'

Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (Official selection), October 18, 2016. Running time: 84 MIN.

Production: (Documentary – Italy) A Dazzle Communication, Rai Cinema presentation of a Dazzle Communication, with Rai Cinema production, in association with In Between Art Film, Istituto Luce Cinecittà. (International sales: True Colours, Rome.) Produced by Davide Azzolini, in collaboration with Francesca Barra.

Crew: Directed, written by Francesco Patierno, based on the book by Norman Lewis. Camera (b&w, color), Gianni Troilo. Editor, Maria Fantastica Valmori.

With: Narration: Benedict Cumberbatch. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • Les Arcs's Co-Production Village Kicks Off

    Les Arcs's Co-Production Village Kicks Off 10th Edition

    Marylise Dumont’s “Black Dog,” Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen’s “Ashes and Snow” and “Each of Us” are among the 20 projects which will be pitched at the 10th edition of Les Arcs Film Festival’s Co-Production Village. The Co-Production Village will run alongside the festival which will be presided by Ruben Ostlund, the Swedish helmer of Palme d’Or-winning [...]

  • Maria Alché Debut ‘A Family Submerged’

    Visit Films Sells Key Territories With Maria Alché Debut ‘A Family Submerged’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID — New York’s Visit Films announced at Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur market, that the company has secured distribution in Mexico and Spain on Maria Alché’s directorial debut, “A Family Submerged.” In Mexico, the film was snagged by top indie production and distribution company Interior 13 Cine, distributors for Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra’s Colombian [...]

  • Macao

    'Clean Up' Takes Top Prize at Macao Festival and Awards

    Korean drama movie, “Clean Up” took the best film prize on Friday night at the closing ceremony of the International Film Festival and Awards Macao. The jury, which comprised Chen Kaige, Danis Tanovic, Mabel Cheung, Paul Currie, and Tillotama Shome, said: “’Clean Up’ is a powerful, visceral film which is symbolic and naturalistic at the [...]

  • Breaking Glass Snags Prizewinning Argentine Gay

    Ventana Sur: Breaking Glass Snags Argentine Gay Drama ‘Marilyn’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    In a last-minute deal inked at Ventana Sur, Breaking Glass Pictures (BGP) snapped up North American rights to gay-trans drama “Marilyn,” the feature debut of Argentine helmer-scribe Martin Rodríguez Redondo. The Philadelphia-based company has been on a mini-buying spree, having previously snagged threesome drama “We Are Three” at the Buenos Aires confab. BGP has bought [...]

  • Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in

    Paramount Inks Deal for Theme Park in South Korea

    Paramount Pictures has announced a deal to install a studio-branded theme park in an entertainment resort being developed in South Korea. The agreement was struck between Paramount and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which owns the Inspire Integrated Entertainment Resort in the South Korean city of Incheon. Mohegan has invested KRW 2.8 trillion ($2.4 billion) in [...]

  • Arca, Cacerola, Viento del Norte, Panda

    Arca, Cacerola, Viento del Norte, Panda Team on ‘Mental Health Not Included’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — In a return to film production after serving as president of Argentina’s National Institute of Film and the Audiovisual Arts (INCAA) and then as a member of parliament, film producer Liliana Mazure is teaming with prestigious counterparts in Mexico and Brazil on a three-part, pan-regional dark comedy, “Mental Health Not Included.” Lead [...]

  • IFFAM and Variety Celebrate Asian Talent

    IFFAM and Variety Celebrate Asian Talent Up Next

    The International Film Festival and Awards Macao and Variety combined forces for the second year running to put a spotlight on Asia’s acting talent. A well-attended meet-the-stars press event on Friday afternoon in Macau was addressed by leading local official, Maria Helena Senna de Fernandes. She turned the microphone over the five actors from different [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content