Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2013: What a Magnificient Presence

19 08 2013

Okay, okay. So I know it’s a little late to be blogging about the start of the Queer Film Festival in Vancouver when the festival started on Thursday. I’ve caught a few films already but I haven’t had a chance to really review them until now. Before I get to it, I want to say that it’s always such an awesome time to attend the festival because it really does feel like a community gathering. I love how loudly people laugh during the films, the hums and haws at the quiet moments, and even the rare cheer when the guys hook up with guys (I haven’t seen enough women’s films to know whether or not it happens with female audiences). And to have a film screening as part of the festival too– that’s such an awesome feeling.

So to get to it: Magnificent Presence.

The film is about a shy, quiet Italian guy who lives with a troupe of ghosts who believe it’s still 1943. He’s the only one who is able to set them free and to solve the mystery of what happened to them.

At first, this sounds really interesting. It’s even more promising that this is supposed to be a comedy, and the film is comedic in parts, especially at the difference in time periods. Pietro, our protagonist, longs to be an actor and the his ghostly roommates give him outdated, hilarious advice for his upcoming audition, including bursting out into song if there’s an uncomfortable silence.

Unfortunately, writer and director Ferzan Ozpetek’s script too underdeveloped to be fully enjoyable. The rag-tag troupe is all visually and physically distinct in their own ways, yet they are mere skeletons of characters. And the characters aren’t eh only underdeveloped aspects of the film. Subplots, such as a flirtation with a hunky downstairs neighbour and one of the suave ghosts who watches Pietro sleep yet admittedly still comes off as alluring and romantically charming instead of creepy– all these are cut short or disappointingly lead to nothing. Even the main plot, Pietro’s investigation into the history of the troupe, has a troubling plothole: [spoilers herein] Why would Livia Morosini report them? If it was out of jealousy or for her own career, why flee to South America after? What was her relationship with the troupe, anyway?

Instead of fleshing out the who’s and the how’s, Ozpetek tries to juggle too many subplots at once, including Pietro’s own transformation, and none of them are really satisfying, ultimately, not even the main plot. It’s all very well to have a comedic film have some funny lines, but what keeps audiences truly mesmerized, like Pietro’s subtle facial expressions in the end, is a good, thoughtfully constructed story.

Grade: C+

Oh, and the actor playing Pietro, Elio Germano, looks ridiculously like my friend Ryan Clayton, except Elio is older. And speaks Italian. But they’re both so adorkable!

Ferzan Ozpetek

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