| Director Giuseppe Capotondi makes an impressive feature film debut in this mind-bending psychological thriller. The movie is billed as a romance, robbery and mystery in which nothing is what it seems.
The two main characters are Sonia (Kseniya Rappoport) and Guido (Filippo Timi, who played Benito Mussolini in "Vincere"). Sonia is a beguiling, long-legged Slovenian immigrant working as a chambermaid at a four-star hotel in Turin, Italy. Guido is a former surveillance cop now working as a security guard at a mansion filled with priceless works of art.
Sonia pretends to be shy and innocent. Guido has been a widower for three years. He is in the market for female companionship and his social life primarily consists of meaningless one-night stands.
Marisa runs a dating service and Guido is her best client. Marisa puts on nightly speed-dating parties. The women sit at numbered tables. The men rotate around changing locations whenever the bell rings.
Guido is the last man to visit Sonia's table on a particular night. She waits for him at the door and they walk down the sidewalk together. He asks her to go to his place and notices the time on his wristwatch is 23:23. It reminds him of a silly game where you make a wish whenever you become aware of a double hour. This is the first of several instances that the audience is reminded of the movie's clever title.
On the couple's second date, they ride out to the palatial grounds where Guido works as a security guard. He switches off the alarm system and they walk into the woods. As he starts kissing Sonia, Guido is hit over the head by a masked man. He awakens tied up next to Sonia while a robbery is taking place. One of the robbers gets fresh with Sonia. Guido fights him off and the gun goes off.
A blackout marks the end of act one. Two distinct acts follow in which the movie plays tricks on the audience, erecting a thin veil between the real and the imagined.
There are fragmented puzzle pieces doled out like breadcrumbs along the way. Each of the two main characters has an understated intensity. The movie taps into our dreams of finding a soul mate to fall in love with. It also shows how a person doesn't change their true stripes.
Don't let anyone spill the beans and tell you too much before you get a chance to sit through all the twists and turns in this mind-blowing experience.
The screenwriters have taken cues from David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock and even "The Wizard of Oz" in fashioning this Italian gem that has already been ticketed for an American remake.
This wholly unpredictable movie is so smartly conceived that you may want to see it twice to catch everything you might have missed the first time.
The movie premiered at the 2009 Venice Film Festival and won the Young Cinema Award for Best Italian Film, Best Actress and Best Actor. It was also nominated for The Golden Lion.
The 96-minute running time passes by quickly. The dialogue is in Italian with easy-to-read English subtitles. Your chance to be spellbound comes this weekend as it opens exclusively at the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"