Sunday, August 14, 2016


Some of the best films ever made are ones that the general audience has never seen, and this is because they were made outside of the United States.  On our inaugural installment of FOREIGN FILM SPOTLIGHT, where we showcase some of the best in foreign cinema, we take a look at the fantastic new Italian film...PERFETTI SCONOSCIUTI (PERFECT STRANGERS).

Seven long time friends are having a meet up at Rocco (Marco Giallini) and Eva's (Kasia Smutniak) house. As the dinner starts to evolve the theme of cellphones emerges bringing in very different points of views on the matter. The friendly bickering evolves to the point that the seven friends decide to play a game. Everyone is to put their cellphone on the table and any and every message, call or notification that arrives during the dinner is to be shared with everybody. What will emerge is the fact that all of these lifelong friends might actually be, fittingly, perfect strangers to one another.

Paolo Genovese, an Italian director who in the past had made decent, yet never really remarkable efforts in Italian cinema has now come out with what I consider the best film of 2016 so far, the film you have to watch this year, a nail biting thriller, that takes your breath away with its first reveal and never lets you catch it back, not until long after the film has ended. If there is one feature you will have to look out for in 2016, this is the one to go for.

What is most surprising about what Genovese and all of his co-writers have achieved is how simple the whole thing is. It is a basic premise, shot unstylishly. The plot weave has two, three at best, turn points. The packaging of the film is so simple it almost puts into discussion the visual nature of film itself. Yet, what Genovese does as a director and what the screenplay achieves with its tight and relentless pacing is filling all of the simple surface of the film with a dark and riveting twist that manages to hold the viewer's interest without ever calling attention on itself.

All of the scenes are shot with basic coverage. There is no shot in the film that calls attention to itself. This is compensated with incredible blocking, masterful editing and overall impeccable timing. Just as Lumet in 1957 manged to make twelve men in a room visually interesting, Genovese, even if to a slightly lesser extent, manages to take this setting and charge every action and dialogue line with a climactic effort.

When confronted with such a screenplay a director has to realize he has to step back and make the lines breathe, make the actors relevant, give the dialogue a flow and a meaning, trying not to make it become irrelevant. That is what Genovese does and to a brilliant effect. Just like last year when Danny Boyle made Sorkin's words enlighten the screen with energy, the director here gives the dialogue the spotlight and supports it with one little action at a time, all of which prove to be genius moves.

It could be so easy to give all the credit to these brilliant actors, who admittedly rise to this occasion and give a collection of amazing performances, yet what Genovese does is so understated, so brilliantly unnoticeable it is the mark of a superbly directed movie. He walks, perfectly, the line between being a showman and being laid back. He ends up forging that perfect balance which makes every edit matter and what comes out on the other side is a white-knuckle thriller.

Still, this screenplay has to be taken into account as the primary reason of success for the feature. Its character outlining is remarkable, everyone of these people feels fully rounded, and you can sense all of their history weighing in on their shoulders. Every line further develops the relation between these people and takes a step forward in defining them, you simply cling to every word trying to get to know them, their reality feels so interesting you want to be a part of it. It has almost a voyeuristic nature that is not too unlike Hitchock's Rear Window. Naturally all of these actors have their A-game on which is the final ingredient into the craft of this overwhelming film.

Were you wondering what film is missing from your catalog this year? Well here's this Italian one-room thriller that will take you by surprise and leave you with an ending that is brave and original, which seals the deal on the film and charges it with the most thematic effort it could have ever had.

James's Score: 9/10

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