As White As Milk, As Red As Blood @ Montreal World Film Festival

as white as milk as red as bloodDue to the monstrosity that was the Twilight book and film series we older folk have gotten a little jaded when it comes to popular teenage books and films.  We no longer believe that they can contain anything worth a time investment. Well, I, along with director Giacomo Ciampiotti (Doctor Zhivago – 2002), am here to tell you differently.  His latest film is about teenage love.  Before you cringe and surf away from this page just give me a second to tell you why this film is different from the rest about the same subject.

At first glance Leo (Filippo Scicchitano) seems like your typical 16-year-old kid.  He hangs with his friends, plays soccer, hates school, and rides around on his motor bike.  Nothing special there, right?  Wrong.  He is quite different even though he tries to hide it well.  For instance, he divides his world up into colours.  White for the things he doesn’t like.  School, his teachers, fear, loneliness, lack of direction, and silence fall into that category.  Red for the things he likes.  His soccer team, music he has downloaded to his iPod, his blood, passion, dreams, and the red hair the girl of his dreams, Beatrice (Gaia Weiss – first film), has.

A new history/philosophy teacher at his school proves himself to be different from the typical teacher that Leo loathes.  He encourages his students to go for their dreams.  Since being with the beautiful Beatrice is his dream, Leo is inspired to take the plunge.

Leo’s dream becomes a harsh reality when he discovers that Beatrice has leukemia.  From this point on Leo is forced into becoming older than his years.  He has to think about the meaning of life and what death really is.  This causes a transformation in the lad who was somewhat bratty and self-absorbed previously.  As a result, all his relationships change for the better.  He is maturing before our eyes.

Making the mature decision to stay with Beatrice through her illness, Leo shows his development and the immense potential he has as a human being.  Beatrice gets sicker and his devotion does not waver.  It is like he is trying to live for the both of them.

As I said this is not your typical teenage coming-of-age film.  It is something so much more.  At times touching while others warm, it investigates a young person’s first real experiences with suffering, fear and death.  The results of this investigation are often powerful and intense.  It will engage your heart and your mind.  You cannot remain indifferent to what is going on before your eyes.  No small feat.

The story is a simple one that involves complex emotions.  Not an easy task to accomplish neither for the director nor the actors.  Each shows they are up to the challenge.  The young Filippo Scicchitano is able to communicate all the change and growth Leo is undergoing without getting bogged down by it all.  This young actor has a bright future ahead of him if he continues down this path.  Everyone involved elevates what could have been simply a teenage romantic picture into something so much more.

Watching Giancomo Ciampotti’s film is a wonderful experience.  In film terms it is like a wonderful melding of a heartbreaking love story like Love Story and an inspirational teacher that motivates his students to do things they did not think possible like Dead Poets Society.  The Italian director has managed to do justice to a well-written novel in his transferral of it onto the big screen.  Bravos all around.

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