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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Respiro

Starring: Valeria Golino, Vincenzo Amato
Director: Emanuele Crialese
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: May 2003
Genres: Drama, Foreign, Italian

*Also starring: Filippo Pucillo, Veronica D'Agostino, Francesco Casisa, Muzzi Loffredo, Elio Germano

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

Not every American who goes to Rome can have the luck of Lizzie McGuire, who meets a handsome rock singer and is transformed from a klutzy team to a confident woman. In fact the typical tourists in Rome and Florence, having been bored by the Sistine Chapel, probably do not bother traveling south to Sicily where they can likewise yawn at the Roman ruins at Siracusa. But if these travelers would continue south yet again, past the island of Malta to tiny Lampedusa in the Pelagie belt and could somehow be accepted by the insular group of people who live there folks who'd as likely look forward to journeying to Florence and I would be likely to put Baghdad on my itinerary--they just might find enough material for a novel.

Emanuele Crialese, who was born in Rome, graduated from New York University, and wrote and directed "Respiro" entirely in Lampedusa, knew he could evoke a tale from the folks who live there. What's more he had the advantage of exploiting an Italian legend, one that deals with an unconventional woman who got the local tongues wagging, all agreeing that the high-spirited femme was downright nuts and needed regular injections to be tranquilized. The woman was not unaware of the local gossip, but she had other ideas on how to feel at peace with the world: she'd explore the healing powers of the sea, where she could leave her anxieties behind and gain rest. In fact "Respiro," the title of this film, means "a place of rest" or "a pause."

"Respiro" is not the sort of pic that would be attended by fans of "Matrix," "X-Men" or "2 Fast 2 Furious," given its tranquil setting, upset now and then by the gyrations of the town's misfit and the fights between two rival groups of teens and sub-teens whose idea of fun in a place that offered no healthy amusements for the young is to punch one another out and humiliate the adversaries by stripping them of their clothing. The principal focus is on Grazia (Valeria Golino), who does not feel fulfilled cleaning fish all day with a group of woman while her husband, Pietro (Vincenzo Amato) is out on his boat making his daily catch while flinging a few fish to the kids--who include Grazia's favorite son Pasquale (Francesco Casisa), and whose younger brother, Filippo (Filippo Pucillo, takes after his assertive dad. Grazia relieves her boredom by swimming topless, waving to the local fishermen and causing such a scandal in the town that her family is preparing to send her to Milan for psychiatric treatment. Grazia, not one to be mellowed out under the care of some Nurse Ratched, has her own plans, which involve conspiring to hide from the town so long that she will be given up for dead.

"Respiro" meanders about, Crialese more concerned with giving his audience the island's zeitgeist than carving out a powerful story of heroes and villains, though he does evoke one of the lovely myths that have been passed down through the generations about a woman just like the free-spirited Grazia. We see how the boys fill the days by fighting, by cooking birds they have caught and fish that have been tossed to them, and taking their chances on a lottery that could win them a cool set of electric trains. The girls flirt perhaps with the local police whose principal job is to make sure that no more than one passenger is riding at one time on any motorized scooter. Grazia is a pretty woman, not the sort who takes kindly to her provincial environs, yet paradoxically goes ballistic at the thought of moving to sophisticated Milan even for a short time. Valeria Golino does a lovely job inhabiting the role, a Neopolitan performer who has been featured in diverse fare such as Mike Figgis' "Hotel," Rodrigo Garcia's "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her," and who appeared opposite Tom Cruise in "Rain Man." "Respiro" played the festival circuit at Telluride and Toronto and won the Critics Week Award at Cannes last year.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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