a ciambra/the ciambra

Directed by Jonas Carpignano, 2017

Peccadillo

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Goodfellas’ opening line would suit this captivating Italian crime drama even if it didn’t credit Martin Scorsese as executive producer. It’s a story of lost innocence — not that the kids of A Ciambra have much to start with.

From the first shots they are seen as drinking, driving, chain-smoking mini-mobsters, like a Romani Bugsy Malone. But nothing here is cute: the aesthetic could be dubbed neo-neorealism, as stripped down as the slum dwellings they inhabit.

Jonas Carpignano’s film has the sweaty intensity of a Calabrian summer night as we follow Pio, a juvenile wheeler-dealer on the cusp of manhood and, we suspect, prisonhood. His long face is suspicious in both senses — shifty and guarded — as he fraternises with migrants and Mafiosi to put bread on the table.

The atmosphere is immersive, the POV acute poverty. Crime isn’t a way of life here — it’s the only one.

★★★★☆

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