“La Chimera” (“The Chimera”)
Screened at the 59th Annual Chicago International Film Festival (3/5); Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10), TMDB.com (3.5/5)
When an English tomb raider (Josh O’Connor) skilled at dowsing uses his skills to hunt down buried Etruscan artifacts, he achieves success at his craft but suffers setbacks when he falls in with the wrong crowd. As a consequence, he drifts through life, trying to find his way (and, ironically enough, a moral footing), an odyssey filled with quirky people and events, a would-be romantic interest (Carol Duarte) with two carefully concealed children, an aging operatic instructor (Isabella Rossellini) skilled at fleecing her “students,” and, of course, his coterie of comical criminal cronies. Writer-director Alice Rohrwacher’s latest tells a delightful fable full of wit, whimsy, colorful characters, high intrigue and its share of surreal moments, all set against the Italian landscape. The film admittedly takes a little time to find its stride, so getting through the opening act will require some patience (editing here would have helped). But, once the picture finds its way, it becomes a fun-filled ride, peppered with absurdist humor and filmed with Fellini-esque cinematography and a production design reminiscent of the famed auteur. With a runtime of 2:10:00, it could stand some trimming (most notably at the outset, as noted above), but this cinematic charmer is a modestly pleasant diversion to watch while stretched out on the couch while casually savoring a demitasse of espresso and a plate of biscotti. Godere!