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The Voice of an Industrialised Italy – For Lucio (Berlinale 2021 Film Review)

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Lucio Dalla in Per Lucio | For Lucio by Pietro Marcello | ITA 2021, Berlinale Special | © Teche rai

Lucio Dalla in Per Lucio | For Lucio by Pietro Marcello | ITA 2021, Berlinale Special | © Teche rai


Right off the success of his sleeper-hit Martin Eden, director Pietro Marcello returns for another round of pure Italian romanticism. The renowned director —  before producing his more recent fiction endeavour — was more prominently known for his features. In For Lucio, Marcello returns to his original roots of non-fiction filmmaking. This time around, the subject of his film is purely based on the life and legacy of Lucio Dalla — an atmospheric film that contains various stunning nostalgic compilations that set a sentimental tone throughout. As per usual, Marcello has a deep fascination for the legacy and timeliness of the past. Just like in Martin Eden, Marcello shoots his interviewees with raw film stock. All the testimonies are shot and produced on crisp celluloid, further bringing home the metaphorical nature of how celluloid can often be a meta-textual tool for symbolic and nostalgic filmmaking. 

However, even with the clever interplay of different techniques that amplify the film's mise-en-scène, For Lucio suffers from a plethora of messy structural detail. Most of the film's rushed narrative can all be directed back towards the two prominent interview sources. With Dalla's faithful manager Umberto Righi and his childhood friend Stefano Bonaga being the only interviewees featured within the film, For Lucio becomes slightly one-sided in its historical punctuation and recount of events. The film is undeniably a personal piece of work with how much information is shared between the two men. However, the setup and the initial intent creates a misleading directional approach. 

If the film commenced right at the moment when Umberto and Stefano come together for a quick chat about Dalla and his righteous career, then For Lucio would have been far more tight-knit in its intent and approach. Although, one could also argue that the film's chosen medium isn't even all that appropriate to begin with. With the film barely tackling anything in regards to Dalla's music production and the construction of some of his more notable tracks and albums — one can argue that a sound recording of the featured interviews would have been a far more thoughtful and pensive tribute to the work of such an influential artist. While there's glimmers of great ideas with its incorporation of film photography and effective montages that combine Dalla's tunes against archival footage of industrialisation during a marginalised post-war — the film barely justifies itself with its messy presentation of interview footage. 

It's a great shame, since the majority of its hypnotic montages feature images that empower a consistently elliptical and dazed social critique in regards to a post-war Italy; through the power of rapid editing of recovered Super 8 Reelers. However, none of it feels truly earned due to a lack of elaboration within Marcello's interview footage. Especially with a consistent underlying theme of Italy's extensive Cold War history, political turbulence, and cultural hysteria — For Lucio is oftentimes disjointed and unfocused. There is warmth and a beating soul at the core of Marcello's latest film. It's just that it suffers from a direction that is frequently disorientating albeit thoughtful in concept. For Lucio is a vague portrait of an iconic artist that leaves much to be desired. 

Dir: Pietro Marcello

Cast: Umberto (Tobia) Righi, Stefano Bonaga

Country: Italy

Year: 2021

Runtime: 78 minutes

For Lucio premiered in the Special program as part of this year's 71st Berlinale. The film is currently seeking international distribution.

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