did a socially repressive inferno with no great football-soccer tradition to
speak of land the 2022 World Cup? It absolutely, positively could not have been
corruption, so who’s to say? Nevertheless, a controversial real life referee-turned
heroin smuggler has inspired an unflattering depiction of crooked sports
officiating that makes you wonder. The grudge match will not be played on an
even field in Paolo Zucca’s The Referee (trailer here), which screens
during the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual series, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema.
top-ranked Montecrastu team and its wealthy captain have always manhandled the
cellar-dwelling team from hardscrabble Pabarile without resorting to bribery.
However, their respective fortunes turn around when the naturally gifted
Matzutzi returns from Argentina. Suddenly, he is leading the ragtag Pabarile squad
to victory and might just catch Montecrastu in the Sardinian standings.
provincial games should be well beneath Cruciani, a rising star amongst the
fictional FEFA’s corps of referees. He is determined to call the championship match,
but his shady mentor might not be offering him the best advice. Needless to
say, games at both levels will be decided by some questionable calls, before
the two storylines intersect.
paper, The Referee sounds like the
perfect salve for fans nursing a “we-was-robbed” grievance, but it is so
overstuffed with quirky rustics, it never fully establishes the central
rivalry. Likewise, Patrizio Patrizi’s balck-and-white cinematography is pretty
as heck, but might be too stylized for Zucca and co-writer Barbara Alberti’s
scrappy underdog story.
Jacopo Cullin is likably earnest as Matzutzi, the awkward sad sack in all
aspects of life not involving football. Stefano Accorsi’s Cruciani is also
strangely effective combining broad physical humor with self-defeating pathos. Nor
could anyone accuse Francesco Pannofino (the Italian Nero Wolfe) of holding
back as the outrageously partisan referee Mureno.
Referee earns a lot of style
points, but it often substitutes odd physical details for deeper
characterization. Yet, you have to admire the satirical broadside Zucca unleashes
against the offending Ecuadoran referee. He certainly gets his money’s worth.
Recommended for Italian soccer fans, but falling short of its universally transcendent
potential, The Referee screens this
Tuesday (6/10) and Wednesday (6/11) at the Walter Reade Theater, as part of
this year’s Open Roads.
Labels: Italian Cinema, Open Roads '14, Sports films