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Mixing neo-realism with a touch of Buñuelian satire, Alice Rohrwacher’s assured first feature observes through the eyes of its 13-year-old protagonist how the institutional Catholicism that pervades life in a Calabrian town has become divorced from its spiritual underpinnings. Marta (Yle Vianello), who has just moved to Italy from Switzerland with her mother and older sister, is preparing for her Catholic confirmation while the town readies for a visit from a famous bishop. She approaches the world with a quiet curiosity that is at odds with a community whose social life revolves around the ceremonial trappings of religion, but which lacks any deeper engagement with faith. Vianello is a revelation in the lead role, building a complex character through carefully calibrated expressions and postures, while Rohrwacher draws on her background as a documentary filmmaker to bring to life an entire village, deftly putting into relief the many absurdities of their behavior without reducing them to caricatures. Poignant, nuanced and funny, Corpo Celeste heralds the arrival of a filmmaker to watch.
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