The ghost of Alessandro Appiani, the film

Stefano Simone’s film based on the screenplay directed by Matteo Simone, Roberto Lanzone and Giuseppe Bollino based on a novel by Gordiano Lupi

PIOMBINO – The ghost of Alessandro Appiani (2022)
by Stefano Simone

Stefano Simone confirms himself as an interesting and versatile author, completely changing genre after his latest works that ranged from the fantastic to the thriller, with some forays into the social theme and human rights. The ghost of Alessandro Appiani is a comedy thriller, something that is done very little in Italy, partly attributable to international works such as IT, due to the tone and the presence of the children who investigate, given due proportions. Here we are faced with a low-budget work that makes theatrical cinema its greatest strength, with credible interpretations by young actors, an interesting cast in which the protagonist Rosa Vairo stands out, for expressiveness and naturalness. The screenplay by Matteo Simone, Roberto Lanzone and Giuseppe Bollino starts from a novel by Gordiano Lupi, without distorting it in history, but placing it perfectly in a world populated by teenagers. The operation can be said to be successful, because Silvia Lepri (Vairo) remains the dreamer girl who since childhood has the extraordinary ability to hear voices at a great distance (idea by Aldo Zelli, from the story The distant voices). In the version of the filmmaker from Manfredonia he makes use of the complicity of two friends like Luigi (Mangiacotti) and Carlo (Balta) to investigate a series of murders that seem connected to the legend of Alessandro Appiani’s ghost and his abandoned castle. Driven by curiosity, the three teenagers begin a personal investigation, based on the popular legend books of Professor Luisi, a local historian who seeks to rehabilitate the figure of the prince. While the police are groping in the dark, the trio will be the ones to solve the mystery. We say no more about the plot, because the film is a real thriller with four murders and a culprit, which the viewer will only discover towards the end, during a high-tension sequence. We come to the merits of the film, which are many, starting with an initial cartoon that tells the story of the murder of Alessandro Appiani (historical episode, which took place in Piombino in 1580) using a singular and original rap in the background. It seems to be back in the cinema of the seventies, when often Italian comedies were introduced by a funny animated drawing. Sara Strafile and Lucia Zullo are really good and make a product of enjoyable freshness. The film is well photographed by Tommaso Visentino, who gives the right atmosphere to the narration, passing seamlessly from the dark and yellowish tones of the nocturnes to the bright exteriors. Stefano Simone demonstrates that he has reached a good level of technical maturity, which makes him capable of dealing with both sequence shots and fields and counter-shots to manage the dialogues of a largely theatrical film, as a narrative setting. There is no shortage of author’s annotations such as the scene of the dialogue between the grandfather (Potito, very good) and Silvia, where the old man discusses the value of dreams and the cruelty of war, without forgetting the symbolic value of the track (recurring in the films of Simone) with teenagers walking along the railway line, ready to face life. The film has a comedy tone that is unprecedented in the Apulian director’s cinema, some characters are deliberately grotesque and caricatured, such as the young writer Paolo Lanfranchi (Simone), who speaks without understanding the meaning of the words and uses rather than inappropriately ( as many do!). Not to mention the inept police inspector (Tricarico) and his assistant (Di Trani) who has to endure the prosopopoeia of the superior and his arrogance in imputing non-existent merits. Note some successful gags inside the abandoned castle, where the writers make fun of the stereotypes of low-grade horror cinema. Excellent Matteo Mangiacotti in the part of the nerd student in love with Silvia and very well Simone Balta, the youngest of the trio that brings a touch of lightness to the training of young detectives. Rosa Vairo is perfect as an investigator of the nightmare endowed with supernatural powers, which she confides only to her young friend Carlo, expressive and smiling, never in difficulty with the management of the character. Among the few adults, the interpretation of Carlo Cinque stands out, in the role of a hallucinated Professor Luisi, a writer obsessed with the figure of a prince slandered by history. Note of merit for Stefano Simone, because it is not easy to direct young actors and make them act spontaneously and naturally, without any uncertainties whatsoever. I finish with the tight editing, which helps to create suspense in the most important sequences, such as during the night visit to the abandoned castle. Excellent choice of direct sound that gives truthfulness and spontaneity to the narrative material. Soundtrack as always (since the time of Little Red Riding Hood) by the faithful Luca Auriemma, a positive constant in the films of the Siponto director. We await news on distribution, which we believe will be mainly on television, even if the film deserves attention from independent cinemas, festivals and themed reviews.

Director: Stefano Simone. Subject: Gordiano Lupi (novel), Aldo Zelli (idea). Screenplay: Roberto Lanzone, Giuseppe Bollino. Music: Luca Auriemma. Director of photography: Tommaso Visentino. Animation: Sara Strafile, Lucia Zullo. Assistant Director: Francesco Trotta. Sound engineers: Giovanni Casalino, Robb MC. Production: Running TV International. Genre: Comedy / Thriller. Format: DCP / Color. Duration: 84 ‘. Country of production: Italy, 2022. Interpreters: Rosa Vairo (Silvia), Matteo Mangiacotti (Luigi), Simone Balta (Carlo), Bruno Simone (Paolo Lanfranchi), Antonia Notarangelo (Lanfranchi’s friend), Carlo Cinque (Mario Luisi), Sara Pellegrino (friend of Lanfranchi), Gianluca Di Trani (Righetti police assistant), Cory Di Pierro (Silvia’s mother), Antonio Potito (grandfather), Pasquale Tricarico (inspector Franceschini), Moussa Camara (homeless who lives in the castle) , Isabella Gentile (mother of Lanfranchi).

Article by Gordiano Lupi

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The ghost of Alessandro Appiani, the film