Non essere cattivo begins with an ice cream cone, as an tribute to the most famous scene of Amore Tossico (Toxic Love), the first of the three movies directed by Claudio Caligari, unique and peculiar film-maker, not very prolific (no matter why) but incredibly sharp.
Seventeen years after his last movie, it seems that nothing has changed: the main characters are still Roman people, who come from the suburbs of everything, of life, culture, morality, common sense and obviously of the city, and Caligari sides with them until the end, he cares about them so much that he doesn’t save himself portraying them with an infamous picture, which is indeed full of the poetry that real life doesn’t give them.
The story is about two friends who jumps from drugs to little crimes, who enjoy the few money earned uncontrollably, until one of them has an hallucination, a typical Caligari-style, moment, which is ridiculous but moving, grotesque and sad, that will mark an event of revelation. After a while, one of them has put himself together, works in a construction site and tries to keep good relations with the family he has; he also wants to involve his old friend in the world of jobs and morality, since he perceives even in him this desire. But these two are not alike and for the latter it’s not easy to adapt to a world of rules, abandoning brutality and his street prevaricator attitude.
The only true sign of discontinuity with the other two movies by Caligari is that here, acting has not a fundamental role. The main characters are two, but Luca Marinelli seems to be alone: a powerful actor, able to forget about himself in order to adapt to the world, as if he wanted to seem an actor caught by the street, but also always aware of his duties of actor, not of imitator. He seems to be the right man in the right place, the perfect performer for that typical Caligari’s misery put in poetry, sweet and unrefined at the same time. Polished heard into a ugly body. It’s not possible to underestimate the importance of Marinelli’s first part of his career in the Italian cinema. He’s in one of the best movies in Paolo Virzì and Francesco Bruni’s career (Every Blessed Day); he’s also in the best movie of such a unique film-maker as Saverio Costanzo (The Solitude of Prime Numbers) and there’s him, again, to give power to Caligari’s last movie.
This movie risked not to be done, yet now that arrives takes cinema back. Caligari had never hidden his will to be Pasolini-like, telling stories set in a society which is completely different from the one of the ‘60s and paradoxically being able to find a key to use this style in this world. In Non Essere Cattiv, the director brings contemporaneity back to the ‘90s and cuts in two the canvas of that cinema full of images that unites the squalor of the settings with the poetry of desperation.
You always say that about great authors, but in Caligeri the gaze is everything. What is charming are not only the stories he tells, but also the way in which he looks at the people, those worlds and those suburbs, the way in which he doesn’t not get anything sweeter, the way in which he does not love anything but the way in which he’s always next to what is unbelievable. He’s always far with the camera, naturalist with lights and dull with photography, he’s always careful with editing but also always positioned in the best point in order to reveal human fragility: that’s the hardest cinema.
By Gabriele Niola
Photos: Alessio Costantino
Translation by Bianca Baroni
In collaboration with Badtaste.it