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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Naples in Veils

The camera rests inside an apartment building staring up toward the roof. Slowly, it begins to spin around, the building’s elaborate stairs and floor landings are visible on the outskirts of the frame. After a while, it swoops to the staircase and starts creeping up the steps. On the landing, a door opens and a man runs out. He’s followed by a woman with a gun. She shoots him repeatedly, continuing to attempt to fire the weapon long after it’s run out of bullets. The woman looks behind her to see a young girl peering out of the apartment door. She ushers the girl inside and closes the door behind her.

Inside what turns out to be the same apartment, a group of people stand around watching a play. The camera begins to focus on the lecherous glances exchanged between two of the attendees, Adriana (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and Andrea (Alessandro Borghi). Adriana looks exactly like the woman from the opening scene (Mezzogiorno plays both parts) but Andrea is not the man she shoots. Is this a movie that’s shown it’s ending first (or some point in its middle) and is now building back up to that moment or is this now taking place sometime long after the events of the opening scene?

Adriana and Andrea leave the gathering and go to Adriana’s apartment, where Andrea stays the night. As he leaves the next morning, they plan for a date later that evening. Adriana’s family and friends are surprised by her sudden romantic involvement when she meets with them later in the day. But, when Adriana shows up for their date, Andrea’s nowhere to be seen. The following day, Adriana, a medical examiner, starts to perform an autopsy. At first, the mutilated body isn’t recognizable. As one of Adriana’s co-workers begins cutting away the man’s clothes, a tattoo on the man’s hip is unveiled. One that Adriana recognizes from her previous night’s tryst (to put it nicely) with Andrea. Realizing that the body on the table before her is that of the man she’s fallen in love with, Adriana is forced to stop the autopsy. She finds herself drawn into the investigation of his mysterious death.

The acting in “Naples in Veils” is strong. Mezzogiorno and Borghi have good chemistry with each other, a spark that gives credibility to Adriana’s resulting devastation following a single night together. Mezzogiorno’s performance has an edge that makes Adriana’s despair, and – soon to be – paranoia (which I won’t get into), believable.

As Adriana’s drawn further into the investigation, deciding to withhold information from the police (both of whom she confusingly doesn’t trust despite having an established relationship with them through work), director Ferzan Ozpetek starts to blur the line between reality. Her aunt Adele (Anna Bonaiuto) describes a past lover who suddenly pops on screen to dance with her. As the camera moves away from them, it comes to focus on a pair of chairs on the side of the room while far off voices, assumedly from the past, are heard. Ozpetek inserts other odd fantasy elements into the film, even ending the movie with our ears hearing something our eyes know isn’t there.

Things do start coming together by the film’s conclusion, though a lot is left for the viewer to infer. This thriller can’t seem to make up it’s mind what it wants to be – an erotic thriller or something more esoteric. Scenes of graphic sex and mystery are combined with fantasy-like flourishes. A couple twists are even thrown in by the film’s end. But by then, you probably won’t care enough to be shocked. Nothing ever feels resolved, leaving the audience to speculate on what exactly happened.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

Available on DVD/VOD April 23

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