Scene4 Magazine: "Mine Vaganti" reviewed by Arthur Meiselman  July 2011

by Arthur Meiselman

Ferzan Ozpetek is a photographer. All of his films reflect his photographic eye, his sense of image-flow timing, and his consummate skill to translate the vision in his mind onto film. This is especially true with his latest work: Mine Vaganti. It is his 'canon', his testament to filmmaking for the sake of making a film.

Yes, it is a story about Gay coming-out in a homophobic family in conservative Catholic Italy. Yes, it is a story about family values. Yes, it is a comedy that is muted by heavy dramatic undertones. Yes, it has a lingering, sometimes slow pace. Yes, yes, yes, yes! But all of this is the vehicle, the envisioned and carefully crafted container for a beautiful and often magical film.

The story has been seen and heard many times, but here with some unpredictable twists. In the southern Italian city of Lecce, the Cantone family runs a successful pasta manufacturing business, created by the La nonna (Grandmother) who still watches over the business and the family, and is her own woman. She's nicknamed, "loose cannon."  The international English title of the film is Loose Cannons because each character in the story has their own unique way of rolling around the family's 'deck'.


The youngest son, Tommaso, returns home from Rome. Expected to join the family business, he plans to reveal that he is Gay and a writer, not a businessman. The twist is—at dinner that night, which includes the Brunetti family (the family's new business partners), as Tomasso begins to tell the family, his older brother, Antonio, interrupts him and announces to everyone that he himself is Gay. The Father explodes, throws him out and then collapses with a heart attack. Tommaso is trapped. He is forced to remain silent out of fear that he will give his Father a second, this time, death-delivering jolt and he is forced to take over the business. Add to this mix the introduction of the Brunetti's quirky daughter, Alba, who becomes a co-proprietor with Tomasso and a disconcerting 'more than a friend', and the complications caused by the appearance Tommaso's lover, Marco.

Ozpetek uses this commonplace tale to explore the individual 'cannons' on the Cantone ship and more importantly the relationships. ozpetek2-crHe does this by layering his story in the lush, deep-toned cinematography of  Maurizio Calvesi, the lush original music of Pasquale Catalano, and editing that is a silky montage of imagery.

Like Stanley Kubrick, the photographer, Ferzan Ozpetek, the photographer, uses closeups as if they were paintings… lingering on faces, sensuously allowing the actors to speak when there is no dialogue. It helps that he's blessed with an ensemble of skilled acting talent which includes: Nicole Grimaudo as the beautiful and troubled Alba Brunetti, Alessandro Preziosi, the struggling eldest son Antonio Cantone, Ennio Fantastichini, the confused and guilt-ridden father Vincenzo Cantone, Elena Sofia Ricci as the aunt Luciana Cantone, who drinks away the memory of a broken teenage love affair and every night welcomes her 'casanova' visitors, then punctuates their departure with the cry of "Stop, Thief". Their individual stories, especially their relationships, set Mine Vaganti apart from other films in its genre.


It is the key relationship that defines the film: La nonna (Ilaria Occhini) and her grandson Tommaso (Riccardo Scamarchio). They stand both inside and outside the family and Ozpetek carefully returns to what they see and how they see it... what we see. La nonna revisits her youth and her ever-present memories with her grandson and she nurtures him. She tells him: "If one always does what others want...then it's not worth living." She tells him, through Alba: "When a love is impossible, it never ends. Those are the ones that last forever." That line is at the film's heart.


Riccardo Scamarchio is a "heart-throb" in many Italian fan circles. Though he is a marvelous comedic talent, he has matured to become a serious purveyor of character. In Tommasso, Scamarchio the actor disappears from the screen. His character's point-of-view is predominant and Scamarchio gives a full range of emotional transitions, some quite subtle, that wash across his face and change his body. It is compelling to watch.


Ilaria Occhini is a wonder. The 77-year old actress brings a lifetime of experience and life to a lovely acting instrument. As La nonna, she provides an entire dimension, a layer if you will, to the tapestry that is the Cantone family, as much in gesture as in speech. A raised eyebrow, the turn of a smile, a glance... Occhini can say more with her face than some screenwriters can in ten pages of dialogue. If there is a star performance in the film, it is hers.

Mine Vaganti was honored as 'Best Film' at the recent Moviemov Italian Film Festival in Bangkok.  

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©2011 Arthur Meiselman
©2011 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Scene4 Magazine: Arthur Meiselman
Arthur Meiselman is a playwright, writer and the editor of Scene4.
He also directs the Talos Ensemble and produces for Aemagefilms

For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives
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July 2011

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