Monday, February 4, 2013

When the Bad Guy Wins: Arrivederci Amore, Ciao

Rented Arrivederci Amore, Ciao aka "The Goodbye Kiss" and while there were many cinematographic elements I rather liked, clever gimmicks as they might've been, at the end of this I felt empty and a little cold. Perhaps because there were enough hooks in the narrative to successfully get me to empathize with the anti-hero protagonist Giorgio who appeared intermittently remorseful about his terrorist bombing gone bad.
However any hints towards remorse or compassion were really just there to demonstrate how utterly ruthless, self-centered, and boundlessly determined the protagonist actually is.
At times I couldn't help but feel the film deliberately echoed aspects of Brian DePalma's version of Scarface, if only to afford another mirror to help reflect the shape of the protagonist's character. In Scarface, Tony has a moral thread that contributes, or is a catalyst event to trigger, his ultimate downfall. He won't kill women or children, ok, so he's not a bad guy, other than his drug use, his ability to fuck over friends, and his incestuous preoccupation with his admittedly hot sister. Arrivederci's "hero" Giorgio makes a point of describing through inner monologue voice-over how much he enjoys overpowering a woman, both fiscally and physically. To indicate a failing for the hero, both films depict the protagonists effectively executing their so called best friends. Tony shoots his right hand man in the gut because Manny scored with Tony's sister. Never mind that Tony wouldn't even be rich & powerful if Manny hadn't wrangled those early deals. Ditto for Giorgio, though we don't appreciate that it's his best pal being executed until later. At least Tony had the balls to face Manny when he pulled the trigger. Giorgio gets a shave and hair cut from his best mate, then shoots the poor SOB through the back of the head when the guy turns away to fetch them each a fresh round of South American alligator beer.
The film puts the protagonist Giorgio through a few prat falls as well, which helps to further invoke feelings of empathy, or at least pity. They're not unlike the beat downs the hero of RocknRolla gets along the way, fallibility for the hero that makes him human, just like you or me. Same tricks that endear Indiana Jones or Officer John McClane over your run of the mill sorts of action heroes with general movie going audiences. Giorgio's coerced and scarred by a corrupt cop. He's beaten down by Armenian thugs, and you know how those cats love beating down poor ex-revolutionaries. He's tormented by a jealous and insecure fiance (if he were gay instead of a killer she could have been described as a "beard"). He's shot at by disgruntled mercenaries and fugitives. He's trapped under a half ton of man meat in a tiny food court bathroom.
The film tries to tell you that Giorgio's not a bad guy, he's just a victim of circumstance, right? A mislead idealist maybe. He tried to warn the cop about to stumble on their bomb before it blew. He stopped the snipers from killing the bystander bag lady. He split the proceeds of the robbery 50 / 50 with the corrupt cop. He bought the fiance a stellar flat with a double door fridge and a hot tub in the john. He had sweet accommodations for the otherwise doomed lobsters in his restaurant.
And then the film plays on this, reverses on audience expectation like a snake whipping back to bite the handler, through some really powerful and revealing beats. Giorgio whacked his best friend and compatriot to get a passport to France. He headbutts a dancing coke whore for questioning his unsanctioned cut from her paycheck. He lets a pair of mercenaries stroll away giggling merrily with a screaming Spanish female hostage, presumably to skin and eat her after stuffing her first.
He kills the former prison cellmate that declared Giorgio a one true friend so as not to have to share the upcoming robbery take. He kills an innocent bank guard for no real reason, then picks the dead man's pockets for a wallet and ogles a photograph that he pulls from it we don't get to see and are left to imagine. Could be the dead guard's wife, or newborn baby, or pet chinchilla, we'll never know, except that the thought of this dead man never returning to that which had been loved and / or would be missed by gave Giorgio a bit of an evident stiffy, as did his slow and deliberate disposal of his victims into the bog.
He watches, lies too, showers, dresses up, then stands and watches some more  as a woman he has poisoned suffers for hours and dies. A woman he could have continued to manipulate, could have poisoned then later rescued like some sadist prince charming, could have simply let go of and not bothered again like most break ups go. No, because in case you haven't picked up on this after two hours of filmic portrayal, ol' Giorgio is somewhat of a sociopath of an American Psycho magnitude. And at the dead girl's funeral, he maintains a facade of remorse and regret while his voice over inner monologue describes his victory. And as the camera pans across the dead woman's best friends and parents, you can see that they all know he's to blame, yet are powerless to do anything. In the tone of his narration, you can here how their seething glares only heighten his elation as he brags that his wreath is the largest on the grave site, his triumphant glow evident in his voice yet hidden from view as he pops open an umbrella and disappears into the crowd, his goal from day one of the film.
Just occurred to me the only times we hear Giorgio's inner monologue through voice over is when he's pleased with himself, effectively, when he's most willing to share with us who he actually is beneath the facade. A rare thing, and extremely telling. But I digress.
The film paints a multifaceted portrayal of a very evil person. The end outcome does bear some of the same speaking points as Doctor Horrible as both depict the dire consequences of selfish choices and self-centered ambitions; however, Doctor Horrible at the end of the piece has regret for how he achieved his goals, and a viewer can still empathize with him for his loss of love and nemesis. Giorgio, on the other hand, wraps up with such absolute clarity as to appear smugly gloating at each and any point during the film the viewer felt sympathy or empathy for Giorgio. Doctor Horrible had a goal yet evolves through his narrative, his prat falls, his encounters. Giorgio, for all his misadventures, really just drives forward doing anything he needs to do and wearing any face he needs to wear and screwing (over) anyone he needs to screw / kill / betray / poison / electrocute / shoot / beat with a table leg / bribe / feed lobster too / leave with cannibal rapist snipers to get his freedom back that he'd lost once upon a time when his bomb blew up a cop.
You might argue that his first misdeed lead to a cascade of consequences that made Giorgio into the monster he exits the film as, that his unrequited love for the shoe lady he black mails into being his love slave lead to his cruel disregard for all subsequent women in the film, or that the corrupt cop had that execution coming, or that a broken arm warrants betrayal and mall restroom theft. Maybe, and while I would hope a person would learn to be a better person from mistakes and failures, I could appreciate that Giorgio instead learned to be a better actor,  to better guise himself as a member of a society he preys on, and might have once felt oppressed or even victimized by. That said, I do thing Giorgio at base made the choice to put himself first at all costs, and that is what makes him seriously dangerous, and the ending of the film very cold and empty for me.
Tony yelled, "Take a look at the Bad Guy!" and died. Giorgio said nothing out loud, just opened his umbrella over the body of his freshly buried victim and disappeared into the crowd.
A good film for film students and arm chair critics like myself to dissect, I think. Not sure I'd recommend it much to anyone else, though.

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