Friday, December 17, 2021

Netflix: Review of THE HAND OF GOD: A Filmmaker's Formation

December 17, 2021

It was Naples, Italy in the 1980s. Fabietto (Filippo Scotti) was a sensitive young man who lived at home with his parents Saverio (Toni Servillo) and Maria Schisa (Teresa Saponangelo) and his brother Marchino (Marlon Joubert). His extended family was very close as they spent time together gossiping at the beach or watching Diego Maradona play football with home team Napoli. A sudden tragedy forced Fabietto to seek focus in his life, planning to be a filmmaker. 

The film began with a strange episode about Fabietto's aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri). Clearly standing out among a crowd of people in a bus stop with her height, beauty and perky ample bosom straining in her white dress, Patrizia was picked up by a man calling himself San Gennaro (Naples' patron saint) to meet a hooded child called the Little Monk. This whim soon shifted to reality when Patrizia arrived in her house later to face her husband Franco.

This bizarre prologue set the wheels rolling on this sprawling tale of one teenager, his family and his neighborhood. These were little random episodes of home life, family gatherings and meeting new friends, just like how it was in reality. Big Italian families getting together really make for very interesting cinema because of their quirky passionate personalities and the lively stories they exchanged about each other and their friends. 

Some colorful female characters really stood out from the rest -- Fabietto's spirited mother Maria with her juggling skills and very naughty pranks, his gorgeous but mentally-disturbed muse Patrizia with her nonchalance towards nudity, the stern-faced Signora Gentile (Dora Romano) with her ubiquitous fur coat, and the matronly Baronnessa Focale (Betti Pedrazzi) fulfilling her noble mission in Fabietto's life. 

This gorgeously-shot coming-of-age film written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino is said to be based on his own teenage years growing up in Naples. Sorrentino, who came into prominence in 2013, when he won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for "The Great Beauty," was an apprentice under local Napoli film director Antonio Capuano, the name of the brutally frank character (Ciro Capano) who will also initiate Fabietto into filmmaking. 

After winning the Jury Prize in the Venice Film Festival this year, this film had also garnered a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. It is also the film Italy picked to enter the race for the Oscar for Best International Feature Film. While the title "The Hand of God" was the nickname of a memorable goal by Diego Maradona during the 1986 World Cup, Sorrentino obviously had a more metaphysical meaning for it. 9/10. 

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