Passione (2010) dir. John Turturro
By Alan Bacchus
I loved John Turturro sorely neglected musical Romance and Cigarettes, and so the potential of Turturro’s take on the culture of music of the great city of Naples was a great tease. While not up to the standard of cinematic inspiration of Romance, Passione provides lovers the best slice of Italiana since Dean Martin sang 'That's Amore.'
I exagerrate slightly. Passione is nothing like anything Dean Martin did. It's kind of an unclassifyable experimental hybrid of documentary, musical and music video which acts like an commissioned artwork for the Naples tourism bureau.
In the opening, Turturro steps out in front of the camera to address the camera and tell us what we're about to see. The effect has the flavour of an old documentary, or an old trailer when it was customary for the filmmakers to audience directly.
Naples, Turturro explains to us, is a city which, historically, despite a life cycle war, invasion and volcanic eruptions, has had a rich and unique culture of music. Over the 95mins, Turturro gives us a self-guided tour of Naples through the nooks and crannies of its cobblestone roads, cramped old world streets and on the edges of its magnificent coastal cliffs and beaches, unfolding as a series of narrratively unconnected set pieces. Sometimes, it's interviews with local residents discussing their favourite singers, or a choreographed song and dance routine, maybe a band playing to camera in a garden, or sometimes it's B&W stock footage of a famous Neopolitan crooning on an old Italian variety show.
Lovers of swooning hopelessly romantic Italian music unite, to those inclined it adds up to an orgasm of neopolitan flavour, but for only casually interested parties, its sadly only something we can admire and respect but not fall in love with. We can certainly feel and admire Turturro’s ‘passion’ for the city, but his direction lacks the cinematic inspiration of Romance and Cigarettes which would elevate the film to another level.