The Gift

The Gift

**

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Echos of Vittorio de Sica skim through Michaelangelo Frammartino's The Gift, a, frankly, uninvolving film about an old man and a young girl. This modern neo-realist style uses many of the same stylistic devices as de Sica, and yet Frammartino's fascination with the mundane and his obsession with the rural decay of the village divides our attention badly.

He spends more time looking at the small town than he does his characters. While this does draw us into the world, in a half-hearted voyeuristic fashion, we never actively participate as spectators.

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Like the great Umberto D, the film begins with the old man and his dog, but the dog is barely able to move and age finally gives up on him. He calls on some young friends to dig a hole for the dog and buries it.

One of them leaves his mobile phone and a pornographic picture of a girl. The old man studies it, his face reflecting interest, disdain and pity. The girl is a local prostitute and Frammartino takes pains to establish her rigorous pattern of picking up clients. The old man goes into town for a shave, but we somehow feel he's looking for the girl. The ambiguity of the characters's motives makes for annoying false mystery in a soup of suburban corruption.

It's surprising, when the dynamic range of the emotional stature of the audience is dialed down, the smallest things can involve us. The final moments of the film either feel like a deeply ironic closure, or cheap shock. You decide.

Reviewed on: 25 Aug 2004
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The old man, the prostitute and the dog that dies.

Festivals:

EIFF 2004

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