Primo Amore

  • 2004
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

Proof positive that writer-director Mateo Garrone's THE EMBALMER (2002) wasn't the product of a passing interest in depraved romantic obsession, his follow-up is an even darker descent into a love that's literally consuming itself. Vittorio (Vitaliano Trevisan) and Sonia (Michela Cescon) meet through a classified ad, and Sonia is obviously pleased by his...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Proof positive that writer-director Mateo Garrone's THE EMBALMER (2002) wasn't the product of a passing interest in depraved romantic obsession, his follow-up is an even darker descent into a love that's literally consuming itself. Vittorio (Vitaliano Trevisan) and Sonia (Michela Cescon) meet through a classified ad, and Sonia is obviously pleased by his austere good looks. But Vittorio makes no effort to hide his disappointment: "I thought you'd be thinner," he tells her. She's understandably insulted but too gracious to deny Vittorio's persistent request that they at least share a drink, and after a while they begin to trade personal details. She works in a free trade shop by day and models for an art class at night; he's a goldsmith who fashions thin, Giacometti-esque figures in the workshop that once belonged to his father. Vittorio is attracted to Sonia's intelligence and humor, but he still finds her healthy, 125-pound body too fleshy for his tastes. When he tells his psychiatrist that he despairs of ever finding a woman whose mind and body both match his ideals, the doctor reminds him that people can't be molded like precious metal. Vittorio, however, thinks otherwise, and once Sonia moves into his new house in the hills outside Verona — a forbidding tower that Rapunzel might have once called home — he begins monitoring her every bite. He helps Sonia keep track of her decreasing weight using a chart on the kitchen wall. He weighs bags of cookies to make sure that she's not eating when he's not home. He tells Sonia that she's evolving into something better, something purer. Tracing her emerging rib-cage in a full-length mirror, Sonia at first likes what she sees, but lack of food makes her emotionally unstable; her brother (Roberto Comacchio) compares his once gregarious sister to a drooping flower. If Sonia's wilting, however, she's also clinging more desperately to Vittorio, a head-case whose mental state has begun to crumble. Unlike Christian Bale, whose startling physical transformation in THE MACHINIST (2004) was the result of losing one third of his body weight, Cescon effects her metamorphosis primarily via makeup and her own prodigious talent: Her portrayal of a vibrant woman's transformation into a human husk is both terrifying and tragic. Garrone reunites with EMBALMER cinematographer Marco Onorato and the atmosphere is once again black, creepy and unsettlingly elegant, lending this twisted tale of psychological dominance and submission a patina of anxiety and dread.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Proof positive that writer-director Mateo Garrone's THE EMBALMER (2002) wasn't the product of a passing interest in depraved romantic obsession, his follow-up is an even darker descent into a love that's literally consuming itself. Vittorio (Vitaliano Trev… (more)

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