I understand that local independent cinemas are hurting for cash. The economy hasn’t been kind to small time filmmakers or reparatory cinemas, so I can’t begrudge the former for making labours of love with friends in lieu of big budgets and I can’t fully fault the latter for taking a cheque to run a film simply because they need the money. There has been some truly great local films that have come out already this year, so it’s not like what I am about to say is meant to be cattier than it needs to be or a commentary on the whole system.
But a film like The Resurrection of Tony Gitone, the latest microbudget production from TV and feature veteran Jerry Ciccoretti, highlights everything that’s wrong about this practise. This is a truly unwatchable film that’s not in any condition to be released theatrically outside of a festival setting and to ask audiences outside of the friends and family of the participants to pay money to watch it is somewhat dubious and suspect. It’s barely passable by cable access standards. There are only two kind things I can even say about the film. I’ll get to one of them later since it’s a tangible part of the fabric of the film. The other is that at least it isn’t as much of an ego trip as Bruce Pittman’s The Last Movie was last year.
Centering around a group of friends, family, and well-wishers getting together at Il Gato Nero in Toronto’s Little Italy to welcome home a golden boy from the neighbourhood after gaining notoriety in Hollywood, the film positions itself as an ensemble character study that never takes hold. In fact, it takes a while to get used to these character simply because of how stomach churningly unpleasant they are. All these people do are shout like the worst of Italian stereotypes. These aren’t people you want to spend five seconds around. They’re the kinds of people who you want to run immediately away from. That’s not a judgment. This is a plain fact. These are terrible people, and they’re all played by actors who either can’t act or who can’t do anything to make them seem human, and the script makes My Big Fat Greek Wedding look like a John Cassavetes film.
The first discernable “character” to walk into the restaurant that we know by name is Leo, who comes in toting a gun because his wife has been screwing around on him. He’ll later be reduced to bemoaning how his wife makes a troubling noise every time he enters her vagina or how he’s (very specifically) troubled by the sight of a 50 year old black man’s penis. He was the only person I could distinguish at first because he had a gun, the main character hadn’t even shown up yet, and everyone stopped shouting almost incoherently at each other because he had a gun on him. In fairness, I also say incoherent because the audio mix is as terrible as what’s being said, with actors sometimes getting awkwardly cut off mid-sentence and awkward transitions throughout not helping matters.
Our leading man, Nino, comes in with his Spanish co-star arm candy fresh from the set of “Sofia’s” new movie. I assume this refers to Coppola, whose family name thankfully doesn’t get dragged through the mud here. He gets fired because he’s a terrible kisser and offered the part of “the retarded brother” instead. (But he later specifies he meant “autistic” because all comedy should be authentically hateful, right guys?) His girlfriend, Vanessa, is asked awkwardly at the dinner table about trying to kill herself, and yet, it’s never really explored, probably because she’s the only woman there. There’s the restaurateur who lost his mojo and everyone starts competing for his spot. Most insufferably, there’s a director who “knows Hollywood” and who passed up directing “Ram-BO” because he knocked the director out.
Long passages go by where nothing of even remote consequence or humour ever takes place. If you ever wanted to see a film where characters tell meandering anecdotes that go nowhere or watch them stir a pot without ever seeing what’s in it for almost endless amounts of time, then look no further. There’s even a moments when characters bicker about candles going out and the placement of laughs. And a great deal of it is shot from so far away on such low grade digital video that they might as well have placed the camera across the street.
Possibly the most baffling thing about this is that the film comes courtesy of someone who has been around for decades working in film and television, and this ends up looking almost worse than some high school produced TV shows and webseries. It’s unremittingly ugly to look at and painful to listen to, and yet, I feel bad harping on it because it’s so locally minded that it has to stop every few seconds to name drop local streets and hangouts. It’s that myopic focus and a clear casting of like minded buddies that leads me to the other thing that’s good about it that I mentioned earlier.
At one point, the on-screen filmmaker – and by extension Ciccoritti surrogate – says that the true “balls” is actually going out and doing something on your own. That’s an inarguable and incredibly valid point, and there’s no taking away from the fact that Ciccoritti has made a film on his own terms completely outside the system. But this movie is “balls” and it’s hard to see how anyone involved could ever think this should see the light of day beyond a cast and crew screening or how a cinema could book it in good conscience. These are the kind of films that turn people off from watching local, Canadian, and microbudget films in general.