When Ivan Cotroneo, the writer, thought about making his book, Kryptonite Nella Borsa (Kryptonite in the Purse) into a movie his friends, after hearing him talk about the actors, the soundtrack, and the screenplay he was imagining, told him that he should direct it himself. And so he did, and a star was born. This guy’s got talent.
Cotroneo’s talent had already been established, having written for the Italian version of Rolling Stone and worked on screenplays for many successful movies like Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons) and Io Sono L’Amore (I Am Love), but I think it’s fair to call his directorial debut ambitious. Italian movies don’t have the big budgets that Hollywood movies do, but this movie wasn’t exactly made on a shoestring. With Valeria Golino, Luca Zingaretti, and Cristina Capotodi bringing his characters to life and a killer soundtrack (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Planet Funk, and Mina), Ivan was obviously thinking big, and it paid off.
Kryptonite Nella Borsa, or Kryptonite!, as it was called at Open Roads New Italian Cinema at New York’s Lincoln Center this past weekend, bittersweet comedy that, as the film’s narrator tells us, “Questa è una storia che parla di un supereroe, di una famiglia e di un bambino con gli occhiali, ma non è una storia sull’infanzia. E’ una storia sull’amore”. – This is a story about a Super Hero, a family, and a child with glasses, but it’s not a children’s story. It’s a story about love”.
Set in Napoli in the ’70s, it’s a kind of Italian “Wonder Years” for a little boy named Peppino, but the memories are a little less warm and fuzzy. His Dad is cheating on his Mom, his Mom has taken to her bed with depression, his uncle and aunt are babysittlng by getting him high at hippie parties, and his older cousin dies. Oh, and all the kids at school hate him. What a little guy like Peppino needs in a situation like this is a Super Hero.
He’s got one – cousin Gennaro, a few screws loose and has always believed himself to be Superman, (Italian Superman, rather); when he dies he continues to appear to Peppino in times of need. La Kryptonite Nella Borsa is a comedy that’s a little melancholy and a little kitschy, but very fresh and entertaining. It does a pretty good job of capturing the era with all the right clothes and the cool soundtrack, which my husband asked him about after the screening’s Q&A. Brian thought that it must have been awfully expensive to acquire the rights to the Bowie songs, but Ivan told him that the Mina songs were actually much more expensive.
The movie is more than a little autobiographical, since Ivan grew up in Napoli during that period with uncles and aunts that took him to parties and regularly smoked pot around him. He said they all grew up singing American pop, knowing all the words but not what they meant.
Ivan Cotroneo seemed like a very nice guy and Brian and I left the theater wanting good things for him. I asked him about US distribution and he said that he was hoping for it, so if Kryptonite! makes it to a film festival near you, be sure to see it.