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Friday, June 13, 2014

SACRO GRA Review - Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2014

2013, 93 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Gianfranco Rosi's Sacro GRA won the Golden Lion at last year's Venice Film Festival to everyone's surprise, particularly because it is a documentary.  Rosi's documentary takes place around Sacro GRA, a highway that forms a ring around Rome, and provides us with snapshots of some of the quirkier folk who live around it.

The film starts with a paramedic caring for a patient inside an ambulance and then introduces us to such characters as a man who is trying to get rid of weevils that are eating up his palm trees and an eel fisherman.  What shines through in Sacro GRA is Rosi's obvious affection for his characters.  It would be easy to make fun of these characters, but he celebrates their oddness.

It's a pleasure to watch Rosi's snapshots of these people.  Many of the scenes couldn't be funnier even if they were scripted.  And many more are quite touching.  What hurts the film is its unevenness.  While the vast majority of the scenes are amusing, there are a few included in the film that were dramatically less interesting and these dangerously slow the pace of the film.

For all of Sacro GRA's eccentricities, I couldn't help but ask, "What's the point?" when the movie ended.  I had seen so much that I'd liked and so much that will stay with me, but the movie didn't culminate in something profound.  There was very little to tie everything together, which made it feel significantly less rich than if it had left me with something profound or something to think about.

Overall, Sacro GRA is flawed, but it transcends its flaws due to Rosi's love for his subjects and their pure wackiness.  Sacro GRA shows the other side of Roman life - the side not shown by Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty, as Rosi pointed out during a post-screening Q&A.  As different as many of these people may be from ourselves, they're very relatable on a human level, which is why this movie is overall a success.  


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