There are places that you go to, and once is enough. And then there is Napoli. (John Turturro)
When I ordered Carlo Mazzacurati’s movie about a film director that agrees to direct a little town’s Good Friday play to avoid getting sued – La Passione (with Silvio Orlando and Giuseppe Battiston) I ended up making a happy mistake. Turns out there are two Passione movies, one, a comedy, the other, a documentary from Italian-American actor John Turturro.
Turturro has his own passion, music, and his Passione, a tribute to the songs and singers of Naples, Italy, is pretty cool. I expected (and might have liked) more history and interviews with famous musicians, but in this documentary the city of Naples is the star and its music just happens to be one of the things that it’s so great at and it can’t help itself.
I’m no music critic and I wouldn’t know how to begin to talk about music terms and the genres, but since Passione isn’t so much a report on the history of Neapolitan music as a celebration of it, I just relaxed into the experience.
And in Turturro’s celebration of Naples’ music, so many other things shine through, like the people, their faces, their dance, their homes and their joie de vivre. I absolutely love Napoli and want to go back this year and see more of it, but I can’t lie – I’ve always been a little afraid of it and explore it tentatively. There’s a dark side, and I don’t think you’d want to wander into the wrong neighborhood. But there is something there that is so compelling, so exciting, so undeniable sensual and emotional. I’ve only been there a few times and I am not Italian-American, but I dream about it often and I know I have to go back.
Whatever that is about Naples, that force that commands you to notice it, Turturro has captured it. I dare you to watch Passione and not end up wishing you could go to Naples.
(Passione is available on demand now though Time Warner Cable)