Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Referee (orig. L'Arbitro) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13) (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing*

 L' (R. Escobar) review* (A. Pascale) review*

The Referee (orig. L'Arbitro) [2013] [IMDb] []* (directed and cowritten by Paolo Zucca [IMDb] []* along with Barbara Alberti [IMDb] []*) is a comedy about the only sport, indeed "for many," the only thing that really matters in Italy -- calcio (soccer ;-).  The film played recently as part of the 1st Chicago Italian Film Festival organized by the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago and held at the Music Box Theater here on the North Side.

As the film is about "the only thing that really matters" in Italy, though thoroughly contemporary, made only a year ago, the film was made in solemn / crisp "black and white" -- the "colors of truth" ;-).

The film actually tells two stories:

The first of a young, fit, indeed "cut like a God" Italian "Premier League" Referee (L'Arbitro) named Cruciani (played with magnificent bordering on beatific sublimity by Stafano Accursi  [IMDb] []*).  When we meet him in the opening sequence of the film, pregame, in the locker room ROSARY IN HAND, gracefully tying his shoelaces and then along with the other refs, solemnly combing every last hair on his head into perfect place, before trotting out, together, with dispassionate yet determined focus onto the field before AN ARENA FILLED WITH _SUPREMELY_ PASSIONATE FANS, one immediately knows THAT HE KNOWS that the Destinies of teams, the destinies of cities and, DARE ONE DREAM ... the destinies of ENTIRE NATIONS NATIONS, HANG IN THE BALANCE of HIS AND HIS COLLEAGUES' EVERY CALL ;-)

THE OTHER STORY is, then, about the small town of Parabile somewhere in the hinterlands of SARDINIA ... with a horrible curse: IT has a TERRIBLE soccer team.  It's been TERRIBLE for years, bringing shame and ridicule upon its residents, especially at the hands of the arrogant a-holes from the town of Montecrastu up the road.

'Course it doesn't help that the coach (played magnificently in his hopelessness by Benito Urgu [IMDb] []*) IS BLIND.  But he's been Coach for years, and besides, ... HE'S BLIND ... So how can one POSSIBLY BE SO CRUEL AS TO TAKE THAT ROLE AWAY FROM HIM? ;-).  So the town feels CONDEMNED BY CRUEL, CRUEL FATE to suffer the indignity of having the worst team in the region (mind you, the worst team in the Sardinian "THIRD" League), perhaps the worst team on the Island ... UNTIL ...

...One morning a YOUNG, LONG FRIZZY HAIRED, STYLISHLY BEARDED (in a "confident" even mildly "Bad Boy" sort of way) MAN, perhaps 25 or so years in age ... walks into town.  Yes, the film does feel like a Western at times ;-) ...

Who is he?  Nicknamed Matzutzi (played by Jacopo Cullin [IMDb] []*) apparently a former "son of this (God-forsaken) town," his family, dirt poor, had emigrated to Argentina fifteen years earlier in hopes of finding a better life.

Why was he back?  To look for "his girl" who he left in Parabile as a ten year old (!) ;-).  Does he find her?  Yes!  She's Miranda, the still single, somewhat frustrated, Miranda (played by Geppi Cucciari [IMDb] []*) DAUGHTER OF THE BLIND COACH, working as a cashier of the grocery store that her parents own (and since her father's blind, she probably runs...).  Does she recognize him or even remember him?  Of course not!  He tries to jog her memory.  He tells her his family's story, how they were dirt poor when they left Sardinia, that they emigrated to Argentina and how he had vowed to his 10 year old ragazina (little girl friend) that he'd come back for her.  (How can she NOT remember? ;-)

"Well did you make it?  Did you come back with a "sacco di soldi" (lit. a sack full of money)?" she asks, kinda hoping.  Of course not ... ;-)  BUT ... as the news spreads of his return to this small town, and the various townspeople scratch their heads trying to remember his family, and what precise word among something like 10-15 specific regional words for "loser" that they used to call his dad ... ONE THING BECOMES CLEAR: Matzutzi may have left Sardinia dirt poor and may have come back to Sardinia ... still dirt poor... BUT ... he was one damned good soccer player ;-) ;-)

And so Parabile's Atletico's fortunes begin to improve:  In a series of matches against various other tiny and ancient towns in the area, played on pitches that honestly COULD HAVE BEEN "fields of battle" WAY WAY "BACK IN THE DAY" ... during Neolithic / Bronze Age times ;-) ... Parabile bests one team after another to the point that arch-rival, a-holes up the road, Montecrustu becomes worried.  Much, much ensues ...

... Among that which ensues, of course, is the tying-in of the two stories.  After all, they seem SOOO FAR APART.  And yet, L'ARTITRO Cruciani, introduced to us as "A little less than a God" has to somehow make an Icarus-like plunge to fall-back the level of Sardinian campagna.  And ... of course, he does.  How exactly?  I'm not gonna tell you ;-)  But it's very, very current ...

... especially since I have Mexican parishioners here at my parish in Chicago who are still angry (and mostly sad) over how at this year's World Cup, Mexico WAS AHEAD OF The Netherlands 1:0 in a crucial elimination game, when time had unofficially run-out.  Then during the extra 3-4 minutes that ONLY THE REFEREES KEEP TRACK OF, the Netherlands SCORED A GOAL and 15 SECONDS LATER a VERY QUESTIONABLE "PENALTY" was called _against Mexico_ giving the Netherlands A PENALTY KICK that they used to SCORE AGAIN TO "WIN" THE GAME 2:1. 

Now poor Cruciani didn't necessarily do something _that_ stupid / flagrant ... After all, he's introduced to us as a decent and serious guy.  BUT ... does it necessarily matter? ;-)

A great film!  About, again, "the only thing that (often) really matters" in Italy ;-)

ADDENDA (how to find / play this film in the U.S.A.):

This film albeit in European PAL format is available with English subtitles for a reasonable price through

Further, DVD players capable of playing DVDs from various regions (North America, Europe, etc) are no longer particularly expensive (costing perhaps $10 more than a one region DVD player).

Finally, a simple program called DVDFab Passkey Lite (downloadable FOR FREE from allows one to play DVDs from all regions on one's computer's DVD-Rom drive. 

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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