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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

entry arrow2:16 PM | Summer of Temptation

From the very start of Marco Filiberti's taut Il Compleanno [David's Birthday, 2009], you know things will not end well. This is contrary to what we see in the beginning: two couples, Diego and Francesca (Alessandro Gassman and Maria de Medeiros) and Mateo and Shary (Massimo Poggio and Michela Cescon), engage in warm and friendly banter as the camera observes them watching a performance of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, while on the other side of the opera house, in another box, Shary's brother Leonard (Christo Jivkov) sits transfixed through the "Liebestod" aria. So does Diego, who becomes oblivious to the others around him. Later on, at the very end of the film, you will realize what will finally tie this two men together -- and how much this famous aria about love and death becomes the perfect soundtrack for their tragedies. The metaphorical shorthand is obvious and can be cloying, but I found myself becoming grateful for the way Filiberti tries to tie these couples' story to more universal (and classic) themes of lust and the tragedy that can come when we fall in such irrational passion for temptation. Especially if temptation comes in the form of David (Thyago Alves) -- Matteo and Shary's smoldering teenage son who comes in from New York, joining the two couples in a caloric summer by the Italian Riviera. (And yes, the film does have a scene where the legend of Circe and her temptations are discussed, just in case we miss the point.) The tension grows in increments throughout the film as Diego finds himself slowly becoming more than infatuated by his best friend's son -- much to his own surprise. It contains both the promises of sexual and violent release, and it is to the filmmaker's credit that this is sustained throughout the film. It feels right. But the outcome that comes still manages to surprise us, although in the end we realize we have been thoroughly prepared for it. I like this film. This is what Sam Mendes' American Beauty [1999] would have been like, if it crossed path with Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and dismissed all Hollywood conventions of redemption. When the credits rolled, I found that I have held my breath in for much too long.

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