Wednesday, October 05, 2011

'Passione': Turturro's Musical 
Tour of Naples Rocks the House

(John Turturro, right, with an actor on the set in Southern Italy. Courtesy photo.)

The boyfriend and I took a short, welcome vacation to sunny Naples over the weekend without leaving the city. Our tour guide was the multi-talented Italian-American actor/writer/director/dancer John Turturro.

His new documentary "Passione" began a brief run at the San Francisco Film Society's New People Cinema on Friday, and it's a joyous look at various Neapolitan musical styles and genres, with songs and stories told and performed by an exuberant cast. Tuturro's last film, "Romance & Cigarettes" contained musical numbers in service to its melodramatic story, giving a taste of his considerable skills as a storyteller using song and dance to please an audience.

Turturro's latest movie comprises vignettes that individually would have been very much at home on MTV, in its early years. Popping up occasionally to introduce a number or provide a fuller context for the musical traditions of Naples, Turturro shares his infectious love of the songs and performers. He also gets off some pretty fancy dance moves in one Arabic-influenced number.

Much of the film was shot on cobblestone streets and in piazzas. The scenes are bathed in a warm, golden light, while the energy and intense range of emotions of the singers jumps off the screen. And interspersed throughout the singing and dancing are a judicious selection of historical newsreels and TV shows featuring deceased legendary crooners.

"Passione" not only rocks the house, it is also a glorious visit to Naples, with a lascivious guide leading the tour and encounters with a cross-section of Neapolitans pouring out their hearts to give you a good time.

The film plays until October 13 the SFFS | New People Cinema at 1746 Post Street, near Webster. Be wise and catch it on the big screen, with an excellent sound system. Click here for showtimes and ticket info.

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