“Passione” is musical, but it’s not a musical. This is an independent project of love for actor John Turturro. Most documentaries share a trait: an agenda, mission, personal or political story. They employ a narrative structure; not “Passione.” It’s a movie but has neither a plot, nor a story, nor stars.
It opens at Minneapolis’ Lagoon Cinema on August 19th.
A series of music videos, with interview sound bites cut in, most of “Passione” has groups or soloists performing in-place. It documents Naples’ musical passion. It emphasizes the performances over any expert’s historical points-of-view.
With neither a plot nor an obvious story to recount “Passione” is a series of music videos Napoli-style. Maybe Italy’s MTV still bothers with its namesake programming unlike in America.
This’s John Turturro’s love letter to Naples, he says, and its music. Maybe it’s like 1977′s “New York, New York” was for Martin Scorsese, as he has described it in interviews.
A couple of scenes stand out: one, early on, has several women writhe and gyrate on a multilevel building – a striking site – for what seems to be one of the few songs, without an on-screen singer. Another one, half way into the film, has a trio of disparate sounding vocalists, including Peppe Barra and M’Barka Ben Taleb, take on “Lay that Pistol Down.” It’s remarkable. An engaging dissonance, which jars as much as it charms.
If “Lay that Pistol Down” is new to your ears, you might have to be patient, approaching it with an open, sonic palate or just await its finish. It’s a vocal assault, which is none-the-less compelling if you can go beyond how foreign it might be to your ears.
Ms. Taleb alternates between singing and doing a tribal-sounding shout, the name for which escapes me! Mr. Barra alternates between singing and rapping, aggressively. A third vocalist, whose presence Barra and Taleb overshadow, completes a noteworthy trio.
If you like Neapolitan music, or even Italian style or architecture, this might suit you.