International Premiere at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Directed by Ferzan Ozpet
1h 50min, 2007. Italy, France, Turkey.
If Saturno Contro had been made in the 90s, its handsome and gay lead character, an adman named Lorenzo, would be suffering from symptoms of HIV infection, instead of the sudden hemorrhage that eventually kills him and almost demolishes the web of friendships that had surrounded and supported him.
This film is formulaic in that sense, and generic in that the characters are mostly types: The successful handsome artist with a young lover; the fucked-up female best friend of the handsome lead; the plucky, straight, fat fag hag and her gay-friendly husband; the bisexual sycophant; the queeny ex-lover, et al. Sound familiar? It should. Gay filmmakers have been working this material at least since Parting Glances, which was as much a progenitor of indie filmmaking in general as it was gay-indie filmmaking specifically. Ozpet’s film has other ancestors. A scene in Saturno Contro echoes the penultimate fantasy-reunion scene in Longtime Companion by reprising it as a bridge between two of the film’s three parts. He updates it by making it a pivotal moment of character development for one of the film’s ensemble members.
Ozpet’s instincts aren’t entirely derivative or generic, however: He uses a static shot of an empty hospital bench, lit funereally, as a very effective and emotional segue; the camera follows an adulterous couple through crowds, nearly invading their sexual rendezvous and then backs away, giving them the privacy they deserve; and, the film’s final shot tracks a circle around the remaining, living characters, until finally they escape from the scene completely, blowing away like the ashes and smoke they are.
Saturno Contro is melodrama with clear antecedents; but, it’s also tastefully rendered and the actors are effectively and sensitively directed. Particularly, Ozpet evinces subtlety and dignity from the performances of his female leads, especially Margherita Buy as Anjelica, Lorenzo’s best friend and confidante. Not at all your typical gay man’s best friend, to Ozpet’s credit.