Hu­man Cap­i­tal

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Lau­rel Glad­den

Hu­man Cap­i­tal , drama, not rated, in Ital­ian with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3 chiles

The “over­lap­ping story lines” trope has been used to great, and popular, ef­fect over the years, in films from Rashomon to Pulp Fic­tion . If you re­ally dis­like this style of moviemak­ing — let’s say Crash turned you off per­ma­nently, and rightly so — you might pre­fer to skip this Ital­ian drama based on an Amer­i­can novel and di­rected by Paolo Virzì. If you can tol­er­ate jum­bled time­lines and per­spec­tives, though, Hu­man Cap­i­tal is en­gag­ing en­ter­tain­ment with a lit­tle so­cial com­men­tary mixed in. It won the 2013 David di Donatello best pic­ture award, the Ital­ian equiv­a­lent of an Os­car.

The film opens with a waiter sweep­ing up con­fetti af­ter a party and then bundling up for his bike ride home. He’s not a ma­jor player in the drama that’s about to un­fold, but an aw­ful lot of it hinges on him. The rest of the story is pre­sented in chap­ters, each from the point of view of a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter.

Flash back six months. Dino Os­sola (Fabrizio Ben­tivoglio) is drop­ping his daugh­ter Serena (Matilde Gi­oli) at her boyfriend’s house. His eyes get as big as saucers as he drives through the fam­ily’s swanky es­tate. Over on the ten­nis court, Gio­vanni Ber­naschi (Fabrizio Gi­funi) is play­ing a match with his cronies and needs a part­ner. So­cial-climb­ing Dino jumps at the chance, see­ing it as a way into this en­vi­able world.

A strug­gling mid­dle-class re­al­tor feel­ing the ef­fects of the great re­ces­sion, Dino is sure his luck would change if only he could in­vest in Ber­naschi’s hedge fund. The only way he’ll be able to make that hap­pen, though, is by ly­ing to his bank and his newly preg­nant girl­friend (Va­le­ria Golino). By the way, Gio­vanni has a wife, Carla (Va­le­ria Bruni Tedeschi), and a son, Mas­si­m­il­iano (Guglielmo Pinelli) — he’s the one dat­ing Dino’s daugh­ter — and both will also play crit­i­cal parts in this story.

Sounds like a soap opera, right? Yes, Hu­man Cap­i­tal is the sort of film that risks get­ting bogged down in melo­drama. You’ll de­tect echoes of The Great Gatsby here, and for a while you might think this is go­ing to be one of those cau­tion­ary tales about a hap­less guy who makes ter­ri­ble choices, with dis­as­trous, cringe-wor­thy re­sults (Wil­liam H. Macy’s Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo comes to mind). In­stead, it bal­ances en­ter­tain­ment and so­cial cri­tique, shap­ing up as a stylish blend of moral­ity play and mur­der mys­tery. It com­pares and contrasts char­ac­ters’ per­spec­tives, il­lus­trat­ing the ways in which we get caught up in our own dra­mas — the ways class, gen­der, age, or a com­bi­na­tion of those things can cause us to over­look or mis­in­ter­pret one other. The hand­some set­tings, both nat­u­ral and man-made, and a sus­pense­ful sound­track will keep you en­grossed, even if the end­ing is a bit abrupt and am­bigu­ous.

The film takes its ti­tle from in­sur­ance jar­gon used when cal­cu­lat­ing the value of a hu­man life. Most of what hap­pens dur­ing its run­ning time is driven by the con­vic­tion that so­ci­ety isn’t made up of “haves and have-nots” but “haves and soon-to-haves.” It’s sad that so many of us still seem to think that your value as a hu­man is based on how much money you pos­sess.

Va­le­ria Bruni Tedeschi and Fabrizio Gi­funi

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