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Family Circus: Raising Kids and Throwing Knives in La Pivellina

La pivellina begins on a woman with a face like lumpy gruel and a fuchsia dye-job, wandering the wet courtyards of a sagging Roman suburb—yet it isn't a dreary movie. Looking for a lost dog, she instead returns to her trailer home with an abandoned toddler named Asia. From here, Italian-Austrian co-directors Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel observe the woman (Patrizia Gerardi), her husband (Walter Saabel), and the 14-year-old they look after (Tairo Caroli) in their individual responses to this new responsibility. The makeshift family operates a makeshift circus—not the Fellini metaphor-for-life kind, but a glamourless, workaday operation. Given Gerardi and Saabel's well-practiced knife-throwing act, it's a safe bet that the non-professional actors, appearing under their actual names, are playing variations on their actual selves. (Covi and Frimmel previously documented itinerant circus folk in 2005's Babooska.) Scenes showing the tricky process of acclimatizing a child to new surroundings, and the patchwork of experiences that make up an education—both Asia's and Tairo's—are grounded by entirely affectless performances, not least that of little Asia Crippa. The marginalized characters and tracking camera superficially recall the Dardenne brothers, but Covi and Frimmel's aesthetic is less austere than home-video intimate, while their film is less interested in imposing redemption on the lower classes than in letting them speak in their own voices, and celebrating the weed-like resilience of the have-nots.

 
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1 comments
DJSmyth
DJSmyth

Thank you Nick Pinkerton, what a loving review to a wonderful little film. "Scenes showing the tricky process of acclimatizing a child to new surroundings, and the patchwork of experiences that make up an education—both Asia's and Tairo's—are grounded by entirely affectless performances,". Excellently put. As a father of a 17 month year old that looks eerily similar to little Asia, my heart was ready to burst watching just the simple joy of phenomenal experience, Asia's, and those who experience her simple appreciation of the little things. Often stories about peripheral or marginalized people can have an exploitive tone, a beautification of squalor, the fish tank if you will. At no point in this film was there that feeling. I personally felt that this film is an education in love and being, WITH and for others, and reminded me that the enormous efforts of parents to educate, and keep active and stimulated their kids in after school programs, clubs, etc, etc, often robs them of experiencing their own kids. Parents are so busy trying to keep their own kids busy and assimilated into curriculum based activities that I often think, do they not want to spend time with their kids? That is entirely me, not the film. The film is devoid of any judgments, even judgements that might be levied at the status quo that insist from the outset that we "categorize" the characters as marginalized. Little Girl, simply is, simply a beautiful little film.

 

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