Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Small Southern Enterprise (orig. Una Piccola Impresa Meridionale) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be R) (2 Stars) (6.5/10)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars w. Expl.)

IMDb listing listing* (S. Santoni) review* (A.M. Abate) review* (D. Zonta) review* (C. Cerofolini) review*

A Small Southern Enterprise (orig. Una Piccola Impresa Meridionale) [2013] [IMDb] []* (directed, starring and cowritten by Rocco Papaleo [IMDb] []* along with Walter Lupo [IMDb]) is at times an exaggerated / silly but at other times quite poignant and intelligent recent Italian "dramedy" about a Catholic priest, leaving the priesthood, that in this time of Pope (St) Francis-the-first could offer some interesting / thought provoking viewing -- if, of course, one can get past some of the film's silliness (obviously, since I gave the film 3 1/2 Stars, I did).  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.

At the center of the story is a 50-year-old (ex)priest Constantino (played by Rocco Papaleo [IMDb] []) who explains in the initial voice over that 3 months past he filed for laicization.  Why?  Over a woman, who he's since discovered was far more attracted to him as a Priest than as a Person.  So, we find him in the beginning sequence of the film, literally with his one suitcase in hand, leaving his old rectory, no longer a priest nor a "significant other" of another, heading, with some dread, to the home of his 70+ year-old mother Stella (played quite well by Giuliana Lojodice [IMDb] []*) to break her the news.  

When he gets over to his mother's house, he discovers her in full-panic-mode regarding another family crisis that's suddenly surfaced:  Her daughter, Constantino's sister, Rosa Maria (played by Claudia Potenza [IMDb] []*) had just left her husband Arturo (played by Riccardo Scamarcio [IMDb] []*) for apparently "someone else" (who?) and ... vanished.  Constantino had married the two, Rosa Maria and Arturo, some years back in what seemed to have been the "happiest of days" for all of them.  What happened?  Obviously it would take some time to sort it all out.  Seeing mom devastated by news about Rosa Maria, Constantino did not feel it particularly opportune to tell her then that he's left the priesthood.  SOO ... he tells her that he's taking "some time off" (perhaps simply "a short vacation") and that he was wondering if he could spend the time at a property (an old lighthouse) at the edge of town that the family apparently owned.

The "old light house" (talk about a symbol...) amidst all kinds of "rocks and cliffs at the edge of the sea" (talk about another symbol...) "at the edge of town" (yet another symbol...) seemed like a good place to set oneself down, when one's trying to figure-out what the heck to do now/hence with one's life.  And so it is, he walks down a lonely path (another symbol...) to the light-house, opens up the living quarters, finds himself a bed, plops down and ... begins to ponder WHAT THE HECK TO DO NOW.

But ... soon ... the cell phone rings (a new symbol :-).  It's Arturo, Rosa Maria's (soon to be ex?) husband.  He wants to Confess.  Constantino's no longer a priest.  BUT HE HASN'T TOLD ANYBODY YET in the family.   AND here's Arturo, CLEARLY IN CRISIS.   What can he do?  What should he do?  What would YOU do? ... In any case, Constantino ... hears Arturo's "Confession." 

Arturo's Confession is not particularly revelatory (Honestly, most Confessions generally aren't.  Rather they're generally a list of sins that one's ALWAYS / LONG-TERM struggling with) but MOST WOULD UNDERSTAND that in the situation like the one that Arturo's found himself in (his wife's left him for ... still no one knows who) one would like TO GET A LOT OF THINGS "OFF ONE'S CHEST." 

By the end of the Confession (or "Confession") it's clear that Arturo does feel better ... and both Constantino (and probably a good part of the audience) are reminded THAT a (Catholic) PRIEST DOES HAVE A USEFUL EVEN FUNDAMENTAL / ARCHETYPICAL ROLE IN THE WORLD.  Among the Priest's "gifts" / "usefulness" to the world is the priest's ability to raise people out of the depths of despair and even sin when they find themselves crushed down by them.  (And where do they get that "Power" / Power? ... Honestly ... from "God" / God).

Things get "curiouser" for Constantino when a short time after Arturo leaves "the old lighthouse" for "home" another even stranger set of visitors come by:  There's a young-early 30 something woman Valbona (played by Sarah Felberbaum [IMDb] []*) who, surprised to find "the old lighthouse" not empty, introduces herself to Constantino as his sister Rosa Maria's "friend." "You know Rosa Maria?  WHERE IS SHE?  Valbona does not say.  However, she's there to dump her older sister A "RETIRING" FORMER PROSTITUTE (and proud of it, "I worked my way up from 'lap dancer' all the way up to 'top escort') going by the name Magnolia (played by Barbora Bubolova [IMDb] []*) at the old lighthouse because goos ole Magnolia "just dropped back into her life" suddenly and "with so much else going-on" at the moment, she didn't know where to put her.  So Rosa Maria had suggested "old lighthouse" where "no one ever goes." 

So Rosa Maria's friend Valbona drops her older sister / "retiring" prostitute over there at the "old lighthouse" where Constantino, who just dropped-out of the priesthood, was trying to get some rest and get some new direction in his life.  (Honestly, I found _this subplot_ somewhat needlessly distracting).  MILD (though rather obvious) SPOILER ALERT (because "inquiring minds" would "want to know"): No, the two never come even close to sleeping together.  HOWEVER, they do have some rather interesting discussions.

Then a construction crew comes to the old lighthouse, sent there by Constantino's mother to, since her son would be there to look after / supervise them, do some much needed reconstruction / renovation (still more symbols ...) of the place.  Among the first things that they are there to "repair" is the roof, of one of buildings, where they of course, find Magnolia "sunbathing" in "all her glory" ...  She doesn't mind.  BUT they, it turns out, have other worries on their minds ... mostly to simply get their jobs done and to get paid: One of the construction workers is divorced and simply needs the money to be able to keep custody of his daughter who's there with them as well.  (Interestingly enough, the former prostitute is told _at least twice_ in the story and by different men that "You know, you're beautiful and all, but I honestly have other concerns on my mind than simply sex ...")

Then as the story goes on ... Rosa Maria is "found."  Previously, there were all sorts of rumors in the family (and of the soon-to-be ex-inlaws) that she fled all the way to Beijing with some lover.  It turned-out that she was staying with, HIDING WITH ... the thirty-something Valbona IN A RAMSHACKLE SHACK (another symbol ...) AT THE VERY EDGE OF THE SEA (symbol again ...) UNDER THE LIGHT HOUSE (yes, we already know that's a symbol). 

Why is she / WHY ARE THEY THERE?  Well .. of course they are "in love."

It's (ex)-priest Constantino who convinces them to "come out of the shack" to "safer ground" EVEN IF IT WOULD (INITIALLY) BREAK THE HEART OF THEIR MOTHER (yet another symbol actually ...).  And yes, he himself has to "come clean" at one rather poignant point to tell Mother as well that he's no longer (at least canonically) a Priest.

The film ends (SPOILER ALERT ... BUT MOST READERS HERE WILL NOT FIND A WAY TO SEE THIS MOVIE ANYWAY) with Constantino, PRESIDING, no longer as a Catholic priest (but in some larger / even more basic perhaps archetypical capacity) AT HIS SISTER'S (necessarily LESBIAN WEDDING) on the Grounds of the Lighthouse, now renovated into something of a RETREAT HOTEL ... AND MOM, with BOTH TEARS AND A SMILE, IS THERE (THEY ARE HER KIDS AFTER ALL).

And in the last line of the film, ex-Father Constantino asks his sister for a dance at the wedding.

HONESTLY, ONE HECK OF A CHALLENGING / THOUGHT PROVOKING FILM ... and all said with a ton of (at times nervous) smiles.

ADDENDA (how to find / play this film):

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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