Eyes may roll at John Turturro’s claim that his latest directorial effort is more “musical adventure” than documentary, but one glimpse at its trailer shows that Passione is indeed more Wim Wenders than D.A. Pennebaker. Taking to the streets of Naples—a city recently remembered for its Mafia-controlled tenements in 2008’s Gomorrah—Turturro delves into the region’s vast musical repertoire, eschewing analysis to capture the sensuality that infuses modern and traditional dance and balladry in the city of Enrico Caruso. Love, sex, poverty, envy, crime, superstition, joy: Everything you’d find in a Verdi opera is on display here. Critics have already compared the film to Buena Vista Social Club, but the precise camera work and grandiose style also evoke Planet Earth, MTV, and an ethnomusicology course. Such outsized pomp is not unwelcome to Italians, judging by the strong reception the movie received last year at the Venice Film Festival. If American audiences don’t mind a little melodrama, they might find Passione powerful enough to shatter the thugs-and-drugs Neapolitan stereotype that cinema has propagated though the years.
The film shows all week at West End Cinema, 2301 M St. NW. $11. (202) 419-3456.