‘Padre Pio’ Review: Shia LaBeouf in Abel Ferrara’s Clunky Historical Drama

Of the numerous questions one may ask when watching Abel Ferrara’s clunky portrayal of the legendary and controversial early 20th-century Italian friar, Padre Pio, the principle one must be: Why, oh why Abel, did you resolve to make the film in English?

Granted, Ferrara most likely felt extra comfy working in his native tongue — as doubtless did Shia LaBeouf, who appears absolutely dedicated to his pious function, sporting a beard that’s larger than the Book of Psalms itself. But the Bronx-born director has been residing in Rome for some time now, and had he chosen Italian for this story of a priest caught between his alleged therapeutic powers and his visions of Lucifer, between the rise of fascism and a rising communist revolt in a small village, this bungled drama could have appeared slightly extra credible.

Padre Pio

The Bottom Line

Ferrara and LaBeouf discover God however lose their manner.

Venue: Venice International Film Festival (Venice Days)
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Cristina Chiriac, Marco Leonardi, Asia Argento, Vincenzo Crea, Luca Lionello, Salvatore Ruocco
Director: Abel Ferrara
Screenwriters: Abel Ferrara, Maurizio Braucci

1 hour and 44 minutes

Instead, Ferrera surrounded LaBeouf with a neighborhood solid that struggles with all their English traces, not solely killing any authenticity however making what might have been a robust tackle Catholicism and totalitarianism play out like dangerous neighborhood theatre. It’s been some time that the maker of such ‘90s masterworks as King of New York, Bad Lieutenant and The Addiction hasn’t been absolutely on prime of his recreation, however Padre Pio, regardless of molto sincerity and some flashes of bravado, feels past the purpose of redemption. After premiering within the Venice Days sidebar, it might discover some theatrical play in Europe and maybe slightly concord amongst LaBeouf’s ardent followers.

It’s not totally truthful to chide Ferrara for the language situation. Countless different administrators have finished it for the reason that starting of the talkies, and Ferrara himself acquired away with it within the 2014 biopic, Pasolini, which he shot in English with Willem Dafoe and which, though flawed, felt extra credible than this newest effort.

The drawback right here is that he’s attempting to deal with a really thorny and sophisticated time in Italian historical past, when the trauma of the First World War led to excessive political factions on each the left and proper. It was a interval of unrest throughout which Padre Pio was linked to members of Italy’s burgeoning Fascist motion, with some claiming he was an early supporter of Mussolini.

Such points are dealt with by the director and co-writer Maurizio Braucci with all of the subtlety of a cartoon for preschoolers — it’s Twenties Italian politics by means of PAW Patrol. When a Fascist carabinieri palms out weapons to squash a neighborhood insurrection and says, “That red flag will never be raised next to the tricolor!” you may both roll your eyes or cowl your ears. The identical when a younger revolutionary (Vincenzo Crea) makes an impassioned speech within the city sq. that ends with him mooing like a cow and claiming: “We need change!”

Maybe this could have sounded higher in Italian, perhaps not. But the language barrier solely hinders a movie that clumsily delves into topics exterior Ferrara’s typical consolation zone. Politics have by no means been on the forefront of his cinema, and if they’ve they’ve usually been relegated to the rampant corruption and nihilism of the mob (The Funeral), the NYPD (Bad Lieutenant) or Hollywood (The Blackout, Dangerous Game). Socialist beliefs, agrarian revolutions and state fascism are a lot much less up his alley.

More to Ferrara’s style, and ours, are the scenes coping with Pio’s non secular disaster after he arrives within the village and is besieged by visions, combating his inside demons as he tries to keep up his piety. Language is much less of an issue after we see LaBeouf wrestling with totally different incarnations of Satan in his tiny friar’s quarters — though one scene, the place the satan seems as a person dressed lika a Mafioso and talking with a Bensonhurst accent, is simply plain foolish.

In the very least, these sequences, captured in saturated reds and blues by cinematographer Alessandro Abate and scored with thrumming electrical guitars by Joe Della, have considerably of a Ferrara-ian vibe to them. One temptation Pio faces includes a girl who might have walked out of the director’s stripper flick, Go Go Tales. Another scene encompasses a practically unrecognizable Asia Argento (star of Ferrara’s New Rose Hotel), taking part in a father claiming to be aroused by the pubescent physique of his daughter. When he confesses this to Pio, it’s an excessive amount of for the padre to deal with: “Shut the fuck up!” he screams, in what is unquestionably a translation of the unique Italian.

It’s as if Ferrara had been making two motion pictures without delay: one a extra intimate and summary story of a person who finds God and offers with the fallout — one thing that appears private to the director and his star, each of whom have cleaned themselves up after issues with substance abuse. And the opposite a misdirected try and contextualize Pio’s battle amid the larger struggles that ripped throughout Italy and result in Mussolini’s ascension.

Neither story is dealt with nicely sufficient, the political stuff a lot worse, and the result’s a movie that strays too removed from Ferrara’s flock to look plausible. For a stronger imaginative and prescient of Christianity, attempt the director’s underrated Mary, starring Juliette Binoche as Mary Magdalene. And for an unforgettable have a look at a religious man grappling together with his personal sins, there’s at all times the nice Bad Lieutenant. Perhaps the one redeeming high quality of Padre Pio is that, just like the latter’s fallen hero, Pio is in the end incapable of holding again the evil forces that encompass him. Pray all you need — you’ll by no means beat the satan.

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