MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

TIFF Review: Passione

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of John Turturro‘s Passione, which is screening at TIFF in the Special Presentations category, but I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by this engaging, colorful, music-drenched journey into the musical culture of Naples.

The documentary is about as non-traditional structurally as one could imagine (and I mean that in a good way). Turturro uses stunning musical numbers — think of them as very artsy, smart music videos of Napoli musical history — to explore the complex city’s rich musical culture. If you are completely ignorant of Naples, as I pretty much am, the film is a crash course in a fascinating culture overflowing with passion.

Turturro uses a wide array of musical performances in the film; past and contemporary artists including Sergio Bruni, Massimo Ranieri and Renata Carasonni (representing the Masters) and M’Barka Ben Taleb and James Senese (on-hand for the contemporaries), interspersed with regular folks singing on the streets (and a lot of them, even, have good voices … I was certainly impressed).

The musical numbers are beautifully staged; the music ranges from deeply moving love songs to humorous ditties to deeply political folk songs, and all of it reflects a people and a place that’s diverse for being occupied by so many cultures, and yet unique in its own personality.

A couple of the songs were real standouts for me (and I’m sorry I don’t have the titles so you can go look them up): One of the first songs in the film has two artists, a man and a woman, singing passionately about love and loss as they circle each other, even embrace while singing; another love song, we were told, was written by the artist to his wife, who left him after years of infidelity. I was also impressed by artist James Senese, so much so that I looked him up and bought some of his music for my iPod after the screening.

The film opens with a trio of aging recorded music vets who guide us through the colorful history of Napoli music as they argue, talk over and cajole each other and share with us their vast base of knowledge.

Also along to guide us — and provide some levity when needed — is Turturro, whose love and passion for the Italian culture is evident in every frame of the film. Turturro, who’s always a joy to watch on-screen, uses the city itself as his canvas, showing us the bedrooms, the alleyways, the public squares, the people, and the architecture to add texture to these stories told through song.

Passione is a love letter to a culture, a poetic journey through a history that includes the children fathered by American vets during the occupation following the Second World War, a people and a culture captured in the microcosm of music, all interwoven with the beauty of Naples as a city, both in its wealth and its poverty.

Turturro captures the essence of a culture in the same way that the songs themselves do — by sharing with us how the Napoli people live their lives, what values they hold dear, the way they live, love, fight and make love. It’s a lovely, original, fascinating film with a very arthouse feel, and richly satisfying to watch, particularly if you, as I, love music.

5 Responses to “TIFF Review: Passione”

  1. Alessandro says:

    As a son of Neapolitan immigrants to the U.S., I have a great passion for the culture of Naples. The music is such an integral aspect of the culture of Naples and they has been a part of an international musical repetoire for over a century thanks to the greats like, Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti. Naples’ cultural patrimony has long been ignored and thanks to John Turturro it has been revived. I hope people go see this film and take back a better understanding of the rich culture of Naples.

  2. Carmela Circelli says:

    I too, a daughter of Neopolitan immigrants, was blow away by John Turturro’s Passione. I was ’emotionally transported’ and soulfully moved by such an original and beautiful presentation of much of the music I grew up with. I feel like I have always been waiting for this movie. I loved it.
    C.

  3. teresa formato says:

    When & where will this film be shown in New York? I’m dying to see it!

  4. fzzzzzzz says:

    Renato Carosone, not Renata Carasonni!

  5. Vivian Acerbo says:

    I also would like to know when this film (Passione) will
    be shown in the New York City area.
    Thank you,
    VIVIAN

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“TIFF doesn’t make attendance numbers for its Lightbox screenings publicly available, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many filmgoers the Lightbox is attracting (or how much money it’s bringing in). But the King Street West venue hasn’t become a significant draw for film enthusiasts. The Lightbox’s attendance has plunged – 49,000 fewer visitors last year, a drop of 27 per cent, according to figures recently reported in the Toronto Star. Its gallery space – designed to showcase the visions of cinema’s most iconic filmmakers – saw most of its exhibitions staff quietly axed this past fall. And its marketing barely escapes the Lightbox’s walls. Unless you are a TIFF member or one of the city’s most avid filmgoers, you could walk by the Lightbox and remain blissfully unaware of a single thing that goes on inside. TIFF “still has a world-class brand,” said Barry Avrich, a filmmaker and former board member, “but it’s going to take some fresh vision from retail, consumer programming and marketing experts, given how the lines have become intensely blurred when it comes to how people watch film. They will have to experiment with programming to find the right blend of function and relevance.”
~ Globe & Mail Epic On State of Toronto Int’l (paywalled)

“I’m 87 years old… I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive… The only fear I have is how long consciousness is gonna hang on after my body goes. I just hope there’s nothing. Like there was before I was born. I’m not really into religion, they’re all macrocosms of the ego. When man began to think he was a separate person with a separate soul, it created a violent situation.

“The void, the concept of nothingness, is terrifying to most people on the planet. And I get anxiety attacks myself. I know the fear of that void. You have to learn to die before you die. You give up, surrender to the void, to nothingness.

“Anybody else you’ve interviewed bring these things up? Hang on, I gotta take this call… Hey, brother. That’s great, man. Yeah, I’m being interviewed… We’re talking about nothing. I’ve got him well-steeped in nothing right now. He’s stopped asking questions.”
~ Harry Dean Stanton