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ALESSANDRO COMODIN: HAPPY TIMES WILL COME SOON/I TEMPI FELICI VERRANNO PRESTO (2016)

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SABRINA SEYVECOU AND ERIKAS SIZONOVAS IN HAPPY TIMES WIIILL COME SOON

Of wolves and men

The Italian film avant-garde may have a penchant for local legends and roughing it on the land. One might see those elements in Micheelangelo Frammartino's much admired Le quattro volte (NYFF 2010) and also in Simone Rapisarda Casanova's The Creation of Meaning (ND/NF 2015). The same goes for Alessandro Comodin's Happy Times Will Come Soon/i tempi felici verrranno presto - but this time ingredients are thrown down, but don't fit together. Clarence Tsui puts it politely when he says in hisHollywood Reporter Cannes review that Comodin is "an innovative filmmaker yet to master the art of combining wildly diverse ideas into a cohesive whole."

The elements are a couple of young men hiding out in a forest, a local legend of a wolf that adopted a pretty girl, and a young women in the area who gets lost. There is also digging holes and going down into holes. Narrative logic is regarded lightly. The two young men are Tommaso (Erikas Sizonovas) and Arturo (Luca Bernardi). They trap a rabbit (by digging a hole and perching a big rock over it), find a dead man and take his rifle. Perhaps all this is meant to be happening at an earlier time. It somewhat looks like it - except that the guys are wearing modern day charity shop clothes and good, up-to-date hiking shoes. They play around foolishly with the rifle. With this turn, Comodin tips his hand. We know things won't go well. Tommaso and Arturo are soon surrounded and shot. All this action is staged and filmed in an effectively visceral style. Tommaso and Arturo's exhausting run through wood and hill, followed by a dogged shaky cam, is pure physicality. But the lack of explanation or context limits our engagement.

In a more documentary-style passage, several men recount for the camera versions of a local tale about a wolf that adopted a lost girl and took her away to the woods and protected her. She was however, pale and unhealthy and eventually died, and the wolf pined for her. This storytelling is obviously an inspiration for the film but its literalness disrupts the spell cast by the rough action.

Later we return to the woods and follow Ariane (Sabrina Seyvecou). After riding on a tractor with a pipe-smoking older dude, she sets out on her own and gets lost in the woods. Like the two guys on the run, she also strips and takes a dip in the muddy lake; only she mucks about in the mud; they just dove off a rock.

Then, to our surprise, Ariane finds Tommaso, hiding in a hole. They have sex. Then it looks as if he may have killed her. He winds up in a nice prison - and Ariane comes to visit him. They touch through a separation grill that, final titles say, was constructed for the film and isn't the real one.

In the second half, Tommaso has presumably become the wolf 's avatar and Ariane a version of the folk tale girl, but the film's lack of connective tissue leaves these equivalences hanging. After this film's Cannes Critics Fortnight debut Variety ran a review by Guy Lodge where he called it "an elegantly mounted but effortfully cryptic foray into narrative filmmaking. . ."

The film was shot in Cuneo, in the sparsely populated Val d'Aosta, northwestern Italy, where according to the 35-year-old Comodin, there indeed are wolves. Comodin's first feature, the 2011 docudrama Summer with Giacomo, won the Golden Leopard at Locarno.

Happy Times Will Come Soon/I Tempi felici verranno presto, 102 mins., debuted in Critics Week at Cannes; also other festivals including Rio, Vienna, and Rotterdam; at Mexico City it won the Puma Prize for Best Film. Screened for this review as part of the FSLC-MoMA 2017 New Directors/New Films series.

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