Marco Risi (“Fortapasc”) has made a few good movies, which is why nothing quite prepares viewers for the train wreck that is “Three Touches.” Rampant homophobia may be the worst of its sins, but there are plenty others to choose from: absence of tone, a lousy script, overwrought situations, misogyny, etc. Designed as an insightful look into the lives of six struggling thesps (each character bears the first name of the actor), brought together via friendly soccer matches, the pic is little more than a ludicrous explosion of testosterone. Italo audiences stayed away during its brief late November run.
Given some of the talent involved, especially among the cameos (which even include Paolo Sorrentino, basically as himself), far more was to be expected. Yet right from the start, with feverish recitations of the Lord’s Prayer, the viewer’s first instinct is to shout: “Calm down!” Max (Massimiliano Benvenuto), one of the more agitated reciters, is a fortysomething actor who earns money by charming tourists into entering a restaurant in Rome’s Piazza Navona. Tired of being selected for only commercials and not movies, Max refuses to accept that he’s aged out of stardom.
Emiliano (Emiliano Ragno) is a little long in the tooth to be working as a bellhop in a Via Veneto hotel, but it’s hard getting acting assignments. He daydreams about making it big — in an especially cringe-worthy black-and-white fantasy sequence, he imagines he’s Clark Gable, with Valentina Lodovini as Marilyn Monroe singing “I want to be loved by you.” Then there’s Antonio (Antonio Folletto), younger than the others and ensuring his talent gets noticed thanks to horizontal assignations with an aged diva (Ida Di Benedetto). Most successful is muscled stud Gilles (Gilles Rocca), riding high on lucrative soaps as well as a cocaine addiction.
At least Leandro (Leandro Amato) has a regular gig, appearing nightly in “The Five Roses of Jennifer” as a suicidal transgender person — it ain’t pretty. Rounding out the group is Vincenzo (Vincenzo De Michele), who’s unable to control his rage at a life reduced to singing in a tourist trap and watching his father slowly die in hospital. The six actors come together for soccer (one of Risi’s own pastimes), where they preen in the showers and prove their tested manhood.
How tested? Emiliano is hit on by two ugly hustlers, and later has to fend off a predatory director (Marco Guadagno) who dons makeup and a peignoir, telling him he likes to be slapped. Gilles buys his coke off superannuated ballet dancer Rudy (Paco Reconti) with serious self-loathing issues (“Baryshnikov wasn’t a fag”). Then there’s the misogyny: On top of the pathetic Medusa figure of Antonio’s sugar mama, and Lodovini’s empty sex icon, there’s the woman (Francesca Inaudi) whom Vincenzo rapes in the hospital. Needless to say, she ultimately appears to like it. All these guys have serious manhood issues, terrified of a hint of effeminacy, yet rather than revealing this as a problem, Risi appears to sympathize.
The piecemeal narrative parades every Italian stereotype as if it were genuine, and each actor seems to have been directed to ACT with capital letters, giving performances of untenable intensity — Gilles’ “Hamlet” soliloquy in the shower is only impressive because of his pecs and abs (there are lots of boys-being-boys shower scenes, but don’t dare call them homoerotic). Music fits the high-strung atmosphere.
Film Review: 'Three Touches'
Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (Gala), Oct. 21, 2014. Running time: 100 MIN. (Original title: “Tre tocchi”)
(Italy) An Ambi Pictures release of a Tre Tocchi, Ambi Pictures production. Produced by Marco Risi, Andrea Iervolino. Co-producer, Monika Bacardi.
Directed by Marco Risi. Screenplay, Risi, Francesco Frangipane, Riccardo Di Torrebruna. Camera (color/B&W, HD), Andrea Busiri Vici D’Arcevia; editor, Valentina Girodo; music, Jonis Bascir; production designers, Sonia Peng, Massimiliano Forlenza; costume designer, Antonella Balsamo; sound, Massimo Simonetti; casting, Roberto Bigherati.
Massimiliano Benvenuto, Leandro Amato, Emiliano Ragno, Vincenzo De Michele, Antonio Folletto, Gilles Rocca, Gianfranco Gallo, Matteo Branciamore, Francesca Inaudi, Jonis Bascir, Luca Argentero, Marco Giallini, Claudio Santamaria, Paolo Sorrentino, Maurizio Mattioli, Ida Di Benedetto, Valentina Lodovini, Marco Guadagno, Paco Reconti, Martina Codecasa.