Roxanna (Lidia Vitale) is a passionate person who repairs organs that are centuries old, and sometimes that passion can get out of hand. Fifteen minutes into Gabriele Fabbro’s The Grand Bolero, she storms up the bell tower on the church where she lives and works to confront her boss, Father Paolo, about her new assistant. The problem with the new hire, Lucia (Ludovica Mancini), is that she is mute and she is illiterate.
Illiteracy doesn’t help Lucia as an assistant since she needs to write down the names of parts that they have to order or scavenge to fix the organs. Complicating things in this rural Italian church is COVID’s first wave, making Paolo unable to hire a qualified assistant yet is unable to turn away a person with different abilities. Eventually though, Lucia earns her keep, and this quirky drama in a church ends up being… something crazier.
One of the things I noticed with most films is that the setting usually dictates the tone. A film using an eighteenth century rural Italian church will have romance but there’d be a starchy quality to it. But a lot of thing seep in, like modernity and chaos. Characters do things that the film doesn’t explain, but I’m all here for it. The only note I have to write about this film is its characterization of Lucia as a savant.
Licua is the kind of characters that my dad dislikes and sees as a sign of bad writing. But then again many people who are not conventionally ‘smart’ show intelligence in other ways. They just need an environment to bring their intelligence out, even if that environment isn’t perfect. And oh boy is this environment imperfectly perfect, a wonderful backdrop to unfold a chaotic tragedy where actions have consequences.