A beautifully structured and photographed film, John Turturro’s rapturous “Passione” offers a vibrant exploration and celebration of Neapolitan music in all its grit and glory, presenting 23 musical numbers that encompass a millennium’s worth of influences.
Turturro observes that Naples has been invaded by Arabs, Normans, France, Spain and the U.S. and points out that it has survived volcanic eruptions, wars, crime, poverty and neglect. For Turturro the place and the music are one, and he embraces both with love and respect.
Neapolitan music is all-encompassing in subject matter. There is a sly, acrid take on the World War II-era pop tune “Pistol Packin’ Mama”; the gaunt, tattooed Pietra Montecorvino sings defiantly of a prostitute’s life, and later of a mother losing track of her child during a Feast of San Gennaro celebration. A Tunisian émigré to Italy, M’Barka Ben Talib sings a molten “O Sole Mio” to a calypso-like beat. It’s like hearing the old standard for the first time.
In Naples, Turturro has certainly found what he says James Brown called a “hot spot” for music.
“Passione.” No MPAA rating. In Italian with English subtitles Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. At Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.