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Dopo Mezzanotte (After Midnight)

(2004) *** Unrated
89 min. Avatar Films. Director: Davide Ferrario. Cast: Giorgio Pasotti, Francesca Inaudi, Fabio Troiano, Alberto Barbera, Silvio Orlando.

Writer-director-producer Davide Ferrario's After Midnight is a beautiful and beguiling film about love, cinema, and love of cinema. Ferrario threads a keen, precocious narration (performed by Silvio Orlando) through his story; early on, the narrator reflects, "Perhaps places are the best way to tell stories." Ferrario has a doozy of a place: the Mole Antonelliana. This 142-year-old building, now Turin's National Museum of Cinema, is a wonder to behold, and Ferrario allows the building's idiosyncracies to inform his story and dialogue.

The nighttime exterior boasts the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, aglow in red light. The cavernous interior becomes a stage for the relationship of the museum's night curator Martino (Giorgio Pasotti) and frustrated fast-food worker Amanda (Francesca Inaudi). Martino owns a bicycle and an old crank camera (to him, "the unsurpassed achievements of modern technology"), which he uses to make a unique declaration of love to Amanda. Their romance is complicated by Amanda's boyfriend, a car thief called "The Angel" (Fabio Troiano); he steals cars to have enough money to buy a Jaguar ("It's a matter of principle"). The Angel bristles on the outside of "the Mole" while Amanda hides from the police within, following a spontaneous assault on her boss.

The resolution of these complications begs questions about the meanings of life and love, Fibonacci numbers and happiness. As for the movies (particularly those of Buster Keaton, who the director means Martino to resemble), Ferrario contemplates their practical application to life, even as the museum stands poised "halfway between dream and reality." An amusing fight resembles a sequence out of a Keaton film (Ferario clips in scenes from "The Scarecrow" and "One Week"), and one of Martino's amorous inspirations is the 1915 silent Il Fuoco (The Fire). The colorful, handheld HD photography of Dante Cecchin, meanwhile, suits Ferrario's story, which has the quirky, breezy quality of a bicycle ride by night.

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