The Family Friend

The Family Friend

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Anton Bitel's film review of The Family Friend

In a free-ranging 30-minute interview included on Artificial Eye's DVD, director Paolo Sorrentino speaks of his interest in unhealthy mother-son relationships, his preference for character over plotting, the cinematic qualities of fascist architecture, his use of music as a special effect, his "perfect" collaborative relationship with cinematographer Luca Bigazzi, and the peculiar effect that power has on Italians.

His most disarming comments, however, are reserved for the film's lead, Giacomo Rizzo, whom the director describes as "the ugliest actor in Italy", and so "very simple" that he was incapable of understanding the nuances of his character before, during or even after production, and had to be constantly manipulated by Sorrentino into giving the requisite performance. It makes a refreshing change from the sort of backslapping associated with Hollywood's promotion machine.

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What Sorrentino does not mention, however, is the film's uneasy journey to our screens. After a decidedly mixed reception at Cannes, Sorrentino radically re-edited The Family Friend for international distribution, cutting from the ending a seven-minute sequence of gleefully bewildering reversals (Geremia getting shot, Rosalba returning to declare her undying love) and replacing it with a simpler, more banally moral summation in voice-over. Fortunately, the full original (and to my mind better) ending is included amongst the extras, as well as a further 21 minutes of deleted and alternative scenes (all of an unusually polished quality), including one hilarious sequence that explains how the protagonist's arm came to be in a sling.

A batch of commentary-free behind-the-scenes featurettes (totalling about 26 minutes) feel more disposable, but are diverting enough. Apart from this, there are the usual stills, trailers and bios.

Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2007
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The Family Friend packshot
A world of a miserable old man is turned up side down by the arrival of romance.
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Product Code: ART343DVD

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0/5.1

Extras: Interview with Paolo Sorrentino, behind-the-scenes documentary, three behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted/alternative scenes, alternative love scene, alternative ending, Italian theatrical trailer, UK theatrical trailer, stills gallery, filmographies (of Sorrentino and leads Giacomo Rizzo and Laura Chiatti)

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