Santa Maradona review by Tom Blain

Clever and fun

It has been a while since I have seen a foreign language film. I didn't get caught up in the Amelie hype which means I missed out on last years big foreign flick. It seems like every year Hollywood 'informs' us of a foreign film that is good and oscar worthy... see Amelie, Crouching Tiger, and Life is Beautiful. Each time I hear of these films I have to wonder what else is out there; there has to be many other movies we are not exposed to in the U. S. of A. that are unique, mind expanding or maybe just entertaining. Luckily living near a big city affords me great benefits such as viewing these films during festival time and no time is better than during the Chicago International Film Festival (at least in these parts). This year, I happened upon a comic little nugget named Santa Maradona.

The film is based in a genre I am told is "Italian Slacker", something I have never heard of but soon found I was actually quite familiar with. Its title comes from the name of a legendary Argentinian soccer player who has little to do with the movie other than the fascination its characters have with soccer (i.e. football). The central characters of the film were Andrea (no, he's a dude), and Bart, who are best of friends and quite used to each other's idosyncricies (comments that seem odd to the audience flow well between the two). Andrea is a recent college grad trying to use his liberal arts degree (literature, I believe) to land a job; only he finds out it is useless and he is quite cruely rejected by each one of his hopeful employers (each rejection is painful yet hilarious). He always takes it well because as it turns out, he has become helplessly used to it.

Andrea is only level headed when compared to Bart, who is comically lazy. In watching Bart I am under the impression that wit comes from hours of stored energy because he seems to have an abundance of both. Bart seems to have little ambitions in life above watching movies on television, playing handball, going to soccer (pardon, football) matches, and using his intellect plus quick feet to cleverly rip off local mass-merchants. He also keeps a running score of disgusting stories told between himself and Andrea which runs up on the 200s (apparently true stories are "worth double"). Bart tells each outrageous story of funky sex gone awry (a necropheliac bring a dead woman back to life, a man who got into a car accident while getting a blow job and picking his nose... well you see where that is going) with a certain passion often reserverd for poets.

Enter the dame. Dolores is Andrea's recent (within a month) love interest. She is quite the Italian fox, and during much of the movie we piece together the process of Andrea and Dolores's growing relationship and finally what drove them to a sudden separation. There are many charming scenes between the two, that seem quite genuine and accurately portray a couple in love (thankfully lacking that Hollywood melodrama that distances itself from the true emotions of men and women). One in particular happens at a football (thats soccer) match where Andrea first introduces Dolores to his friends. His face and his actions reflect his urgency and nervousness; so true that I felt it was me. What eventually drives them apart was his jealousy and insecurity about events that took place shortly before their relationship: something that seems petty to most in the audience and makes you feel a bit sympathetic towards both.

After about 30 minutes of watching this film I came to realize that I was watching the Italian version of a Kevin Smith film. Smiths film's (at least his first three), focused on the dynamic between two close friends: one a dreamer who is going no where because he finds trouble motivating himself (Andrea) and one who is lazy, yet sharp-tongued and a straigh-shooter (Bart). The dreamer falls for a girl, then over-analyzes situations, explodes, and it takes the good buddy to tell him how it is and bring him back to earth before it is (hopefully) too late. The movie works much like Chasing Amy, but it my opinion is much funnier and done with a bit more writing/directorial skill (no offense Kevin Smith). If you like Smith's movie, I would highly suggest checking this film out. The jokes are rarely lost in the translation although I can see myself easily laughing harder had I understood the language.




7 out of 10 Jackasses
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