From his opening shots of a bride striding through the Italian countryside before turning a gun on herself, Italo-Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek plays with our expectations. Drama, melodrama, domestic tragedy, family comedy…Loose Cannons (2010) has it all.
Set in Lecce, in the south of Italy, the Cantone clan gather for a family dinner to welcome youngest son Tommaso (Riccardo Scamarcio), newly returned from Rome, and to discuss the running of the family’s pasta factory. But when Tommaso’s brother Antonio (Alessandro Presiosi) reveals that he is gay and having an affair with one of the factory workers, their horrified father, Vincenzo (Ennio Fantastichini), throws him out and promptly has a heart attack. Tommaso is stricken with guilt because he also has secrets that he wants out in the open. Not only is he in love with another man, he is studying literature rather than business in Rome and aspires to be a writer. Neither son wants to continue in the family business.
In this coming-out comedy, it is Vincenzo’s grandmother (Ilaria Occhini), the “loose cannon” of the title, who teaches her favourite grandson to be true to his desires. Many years before, she denied herself an impossible love and has been haunted by her memories ever since. She doesn’t want him to make the same mistake.
There are many other characters Ozpetek and his fellow screenwriter, Ivan Cotroneo, throw into this heady mix: Tommaso’s prim, uptight mother Stefania (Lunetta Savino), his boozy, sex-starved aunt Luciana (Elena Sofia Ricci) and the sensuous but vulnerable Alba (Nicole Grimaudo), to whom Tommaso finds himself inexplicably drawn.
Loose Cannon’s funniest moments are when Tommaso’s boyfriend and three other gay friends from Rome turn up unexpectedly and are welcomed into the family fold. They preen and strut their stuff on the beach, a memorable scene buoyed up by Pasquale Catalano’s playful score, and no one is any the wiser. Their visit brings into sharp relief the parents’ hypocrisy and provincial values.
Maurizio Calvesi’s cinematography is a celebration of everything Italian. It embraces the exquisite scenery, Lecce’s narrow streets, wide, open squares, stunning courtyards, palatial houses and long, straight country roads. Even the scenes in the pasta factory are lovingly detailed. Tribute is paid to Italian chic in the mise-en-scène involving Alba, from the close-ups of her shoes to the neat framing of her sports car and the wide shots of her opulent apartment.
Loose Cannons is more than a little reminiscent of Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love (2009) in its portrayal of the suffocating conventions of bourgeois Italian family life, the passing down of the family business, the various secrets, betrayals, gay family members and endless dinners. Like that film, its charm and wit hints at something of a revival of Italian cinema.