Twentysomething baker’s assistant Pietro (Elio Germano), who dreams of becoming an actor and imagines the man he is stalking is his boyfriend, moves into a large apartment in an old house in Rome only to discover it’s already occupied – by the ghosts of a troupe of actors who mysteriously vanished in 1943. After befriending the spirits, Pietro sets out to uncover the mystery as to how they died and, in the process, discovers there is more to life than living it as a fantasy.
With its colourful characters, comic farce of a story and simmering sexual tension, director Ferzan Ozpetek (Turkish Bath, Loose Cannons) has whipped up a charming, gentle Italian comedy that invokes the spirit of Pedro Almodóvar.
The film’s characters are an eccentric bunch, all living with their heads in the clouds or bravely fighting solitude in their own way. Pietro is deluded in his ambitions to become an actor, and so in denial that he cannot see that Paulo, his neighbour down stairs fancies him; cousin Maria just wants to settle down and have kids and targets every available man in her quest; while the ghosts of the 1940s-attired Apollino theatrical troupe, who look like they spring from a Charles Addams cartoon, refuse to recall the fateful night of their demise. Then there’s the wise trannie who helps Pietro in his quest and aging vaudeville star Livia, who is the key to unlocking the mystery. Yes, this certainly could be Almodóvar – Italian style.
While the film cries out for a stronger ending and remains very conservative in its approach to the story’s gay themes, Ozpetek’s delicate balance of comic farce, sexual tension and spook-filled mystery will draw you in and charm you for all its worth.
In Italian, with subtitles.