Loose Cannons or Mine Vaganti, as it is called in Italy, is the sort of film that will leave you somewhat confused. It’s not that the film isn’t enjoyable but for me, as an English viewer, I was left feeling slightly uneasy about the depiction of the gay storyline (which is the central plot). What makes it harder is that the film is directed by Ferman Ozpetek, a Turkish-born Italian director, who is gay. I concluded that Italian and English viewers will have very different experiences of the film.
Loose Cannons is the story of two brothers from a traditional southern-Italian family who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality, or more accurately, a family that is struggling to come to terms with the sexuality of their sons.
The Cantone family own a pasta company in Puglia, in the heel of Italy. The film centres around an important family meal where the father Vincenzo is due to hand over the family business to his two sons. The youngest son, Tommaso, lives in Rome where he is an inspiring writer and his elder brother, Antonio, works in the factory.
Tommaso plans to use this occasion to tell his family that he is gay, but just as he is about to come out, Antonio reveals a secret of his own. This makes his father so furious he exiles his eldest son from the house. The angry dad then proceeds to have a heart attack at the dinner table.
Having to helping out at the factory rather than return to Rome, Tommaso fears that if he tells his now bed-bound father he is gay it would literally kill him. He tries to adjust to his new life away from the big city, but after a visit from his boyfriend and mates, he begins to realise what is important in life.
For American/English viewers, the issues raised in the film regarding homosexuality might seem dated. The representation of gay men in particular is overdone and hammed up. There’s something that doesn’t quite ring true about four men desperately trying to disguise the fact they are gay, who must then resort to camping it up in secret. And do we really want to see a slap-stick heart attack at the dinner table?
Despite this there are some really great performances in the movie. Tommaso, played by Ricardo Scamarcio, the protagonist, is good looking, emotional and believable as a young gay man. The moving performance of Ilaria Occhini, as the grandmother who lives a life of quite desperation and missed opportunities, is one of the film’s highlights. Given some of the funniest lines in the film, she pulls them off to perfection.
Fellow pasta maker Alba, Nicole Grimaudo, is also excellent in the film and her Globi d’Oro for Emerging Actress is justly deserved. She quickly falls in love with Tommaso, unaware that he is gay. As Tommaso settles into life at the factory everyone thinks he has fallen in love with Alba. Although, as the audience know he is gay, the relationship between him and Alba is slightly confusing. It appears there is sexual chemistry between the two and it is clear they are very comfortable in each others company. They even kiss at one point, and we can almost believe that Tommaso is turning straight. But as the film comes to a close, it is his boyfriend that Tommaso wants. There is no sense of closure between him and Alba, and we are left wondering what it all about?
The film’s Southern Italian location is really stunning and captured with great skill by Maurizio Calvesi who rightly won a Globi d’Oro for Best Cinematography. Each shot is beautifully constructed, so even if you aren’t enjoying the film, there is something to look at. If you haven’t been to the area, the film acts as a good tourist brochure.
The overall look and feel gives the movie an art-house feel, which we are used to from Italian films. However because of the rather generic comedy, it can also seem, rather confusingly, mainstream at times. These contrasting styles make its direction seem a little lost. If they had stuck to just one approach it would have perhaps worked better because there were some really amusing bits and some wonderfully beautiful scenes.
If you watch this film with your Italian head on, it will go down as well as a tasty minestrone soup. Otherwise, you may be left slightly confused and left wanting more. Pizza Hut, anyone?
To read an interview with the film’s leading actress, Nicole Grimaudo, click here.
Buy Loose Cannons on DVD on Amazon now.