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Why we should stop looking for meaning in Parthenope

And in Sorrentino as well

Why we should stop looking for meaning in Parthenope And in Sorrentino as well

Last Tuesday at the Cannes Festival, the preview of Parthenope, the new film by Paolo Sorrentino, was held. An event perhaps more enthusiastically received abroad than at home, given that it is not uncommon for Italians to look with suspicion at their successful compatriots. Especially if by compatriot we mean the Oscar-winning director for The Great Beauty, whom Nic Cage would call “A Movie Star.” To understand the scope of Sorrentino's new film, just look at the names involved in the project: production by Saint Laurent; the acquisition of distribution rights for North America by A24; the presence of Gary Oldman and Peppe Lanzetta in the cast; the interest shown by Greg Williamson, who arrived on set to take photos as only he in the world knows how to.

A feeling further heightened by the air of eager anticipation that has been felt for two weeks on the Croisette, driven by the desire to discover a new film as much as by the urgency to judge it. After all, it was Sorrentino himself who highlighted how, in front of a director's latest film, the entire career of an author is put into question. A statement that is indeed valid for most directors, but particularly for him. The reason? Hard to say. Sorrentino evokes a divided lyricism, for some redundant and self-referential, but he also has a punk soul that prevents him from being classified within a system. He has no qualms about making any topic his own. And moreover, he is a genius and everyone knows it. Not a Prometheus like Oppenheimer, capable of forever changing the fate of cinema. But a man endowed with a sensitivity superior to that of ordinary mortals, who notices and intuits emotional frequencies and nuances of meaning accessible to few. A vision made up of many questions and very few answers, because Sorrentino is a man devoted to doubt, just like his films. And perhaps this is why the frantic search for "meaning" at the end of viewing one of his films often leaves questions still open and a bitter taste in the mouth.

His films condense this gaze and translate it into a cinematic language that has no true references (stop bringing up Fellini without cause) except his own way of seeing things. And faced with a unique vision, translated into a language that has no precedents to help us in its translation, it is perfectly normal to feel lost. It is instead - allow me - profoundly wrong to stubbornly seek the last piece of the puzzle or explanations capable of creating simple shortcuts to a journey that should itself be the "meaning" of the film. Such an attitude, in front of a work like Parthenope, leads to getting lost, losing the journey and more.

Letting go and accepting to let melancholy in

We are at the third paragraph of this article and still not a word has been said about the plot of Parthenope. Nor will it be in the following lines. Because, although the film obviously has a plot (even clearer compared to other titles in Sorrentino's filmography), trying to reconstruct it would further distract us from the viewing experience. Parthenope, like Naples, is everything and its opposite. Sorrentino, in his flow of doubts and unanswered questions, explicitly asks the viewer to let go. Live that sea, bathe in its waters, breathe its essence but always with the warning not to be dragged down. This new film by Sorrentino is a pure concentrate of melancholy. She could not have been anyone else. The most contradictory feeling there is. It is associated with the past, the future, and the present. It is warm, enveloping, and at times oppressive, yet it takes you on a journey every time. Melancholy is made of water and salt but on the palate has a sweet taste. A simple emotion yet so elusive in finding a definition. Paolo Sorrentino managed to filter it through his vision of the world and condense it into a single film. Getting lost in finding simple answers or meanings is an act of cruelty. But not towards Sorrentino or Parthenope. Towards ourselves, because we risk losing the opportunity to let melancholy in and ultimately to learn to know ourselves better.