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Venice 79, Shia LaBeouf is a violent and tormented Padre Pio. Abel Ferrara’s film review

The Father Pio of Abel Ferrara brings us back to the 1920sso thatThe Italy of desperate families, absolute poverty, disease and political unrestof men tired of First World War who had fought without knowing what …

The Father Pio of Abel Ferrara brings us back to the 1920sso thatThe Italy of desperate families, absolute poverty, disease and political unrestof men tired of First World War who had fought without knowing what in the name of what.

The young soldiers returned to the villages, to those violent lands over which the Church and the wealthy landowners exercised uncontested domination. San Giovanni Rotondo – which everyone recognizes today as the sanctuary of San Pio – was one of these villages. Ferrara tells the arrival of the friar in an isolated Capuchin conventto begin his ministry by evoking a charismatic aura, holiness and epic visions of Jesus, Mary and the Devil.

World premiere at Authors’ Days of the Venice Film Festival 2022, the new film by the New York director, who has lived in Rome for a long time, tells the story of the brother of Pietrelcina making it dialogue very closely with the massacre of San Giovanni Rotondo in 1920. As it was easy to expect, this is not a film about Padre Pio in the literal sense, nor about miracles and even less about the icon popular, but a hallucinated and desperate portrait cut around a restless and tormented icon. Ferrara handed the role, with a burning casting choice for timing and timeliness, to Shia Labeouf, also returning from a personal period for the less troubled and that in the film he found, according to the chronicles, a panacea to his demons with a lot of conversion to Catholicism. His version of the character is hollow, screaming, angry, driven by a raw and ruthless fervor, in constant dialogue between the breathless sublimation of sin and dirty realism, sacred and profane, divine and foul.

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As director of The bad lieutenant we are used to this part for many years now, Father Pio is a film gently and proudly lacerated and freed from all constraint and urgencya very personal meditation that returns to disturbing themes dear to Ferrara such as damnation, redemption, sense of addiction of the individual in relation to his own ghosts and voids to be filled. His Padre Pio does not seek the verisimilitude of the biographical portrait, nor the philology of reconstruction, but only the fury of vocation and of faith that is difficult to grasp, among a thousand demons and ghosts. The iconoclastic spirit, touching the limits imposed by the budget and by all the circumstances of the case, is obviously the same for Ferrara, but in Father Pio more than on the man alone, he mainly focuses on ideological faith – and the Stations of the Cross Politics which is directly linked to it – such as the mysticism of the collectivewith a “low” and increasingly furious approach to the immediacy of filming.

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Like the previous one, hallucinated and catatonic Zeros and onesPadre Pio seems a film more poetry than proseanchored to its own ungrammaticals and to a cursed and off-limits aestheticwho also does not care for the distortion of the English language played by the Italian actors, even resorting to a sequence in which Asia Argento playing a man struggling with the guilt of stalking his daughter and a finale akin to vacui horror and metaphysical body horror, both sticky and very human. He can now be considered as a full administrator EuropeanFerrare therefore pursues its vocation (inspiration more accurate than ever, given the context) with blind obstinacy, signing another chapter – and one of the freest – of its dense and tireless filmography, carried by an indomitable experimentalism resisting all fashions and bon ton.

Photos: Maze Pictures, Interlinea Film, Rimsky Productions

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