Tuscany-set Spettacolo is an engaging, absorbing documentary

The easy-on-the-eyes film looks at changes in a tiny village and sheds light on identity and the need to tell stories


SPETTACOLO (Jeff Malmberg, Chris Shellen). 89 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (February 9). See listing. Rating: NNNN


Every year for the last five decades, the townsfolk of the tiny Tuscan village of Monticchiello have mounted a stage play in which they wrestle with their local issues, posit solutions and maybe sing a song. Stage director Andrea Cresti labours to create the latest edition as the village – and the show itself – confronts an uncertain future.

Using Cresti as their locus, directors Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen establish a relaxed, inquisitive tone, letting various threads form as we watch. There’s the schism between the older inhabitants who see the play as a tradition and younger people who don’t feel an obligation to participate, and the conflict between Cresti (who’s angling to give the show an upbeat theme) and his more pessimistic collaborators.

Spettacolo may not have the structural ingenuity of the filmmakers’ previous work, the brilliant Marwencol, but as a contemplation of identity and the value and comfort people find in telling their own stories, it makes for an engaging, entirely absorbing experience.

And the Italian locations are awfully easy on the eyes.

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