The Star Maker

I’m probably in a distinct minority, but this 1995 feature struck me as the first halfway bearable feature from Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, A Pure Formality). It’s choppy and unsatisfying but has a certain bittersweet world-weariness that reminds me fitfully of novels about con men ranging from Dead Souls to Elmer Gantry. The central character (Sergio Castellittoalmost a dead ringer for John Turturro) drives around Sicily in 1953 in a van festooned with posters from Gilda and Notorious; he claims to be a talent scout for Universal Studios who’ll film screen tests (which usually consist of key lines from Gone With the Wind) for villagers for a fee. This scam seems a more honest rendering of the meaning of movies in the lives of everyday people than the more sentimental Cinema Paradiso, and though the movie goes nowhereeven after a local beauty (Tiziana Lodato) joins the hero in his travelsit has a nice picaresque sprawl. (JR)

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