Review: ‘Al Di Qua,’ Homelessness Through an Artsy Filter

Review: ‘Al Di Qua,’ Homelessness Through an Artsy Filter


Photo

A procession of Turin’s homeless in “Al Di Qua.”

Credit
Sherpa Film

Freely departing from documentary conventions, “Al Di Qua” casts the homeless of Turin as themselves (or close approximations). Identified by their first names, they tell their stories to the camera: We hear how they came to Turin, how they became homeless, what they dream of and how they feel about “al di qua” — a phrase translated in the subtitles as “life/here” that, in this context, seems understood more simply as “life as they see it.”

In between interviews, “Al Di Qua,” written and directed by Corrado Franco, offers a narrative line of sorts, as the cast members gather at a hospital to pay tribute to Rodolfo, a dead comrade. In the strangest of many strange aesthetic decisions, the voices have been slowed down to give the dialogue a baritone sound, as if a combination of (mostly) black-and-white shooting, a fragmented structure, sporadic slow motion, quotations from Rainer Maria Rilke, Godardian title cards and absurdly gratuitous overlays of Bach weren’t portentous enough.

The film’s official materials cite Vittorio De Sica and Pier Paolo Pasolini as inspirations. “Al Di Qua” has other antecedents, too, from Lionel Rogosin’s “On the Bowery” (1957) to the Fontainhas films of Pedro Costa — all movies about poverty that combine fiction and documentary elements.

But Mr. Rogosin was a gifted filmmaker, as is Mr. Costa. “Al Di Qua” is so showy in its stylistic choices and glacial in its pace — it’s tempting to applaud every time the camera finally rounds a corner — that it comes across as amateurish. The film seems pitched at an audience that has never heard of homelessness: Every shot is composed to evoke acknowledgment of the subjects’ dignity, even while individual personalities are subsumed into the blur of Mr. Franco’s operatic ambitions. However worthy or political its intent, “Al Di Qua” is too overwrought to seem anything but trivializing.



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