Parting Words (2007)
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Beautifully shot in HD24P, Parting Words is one of the pioneering digital-era features. Produced on location in Hoboken, New Jersey and the surrounding areas, the cast and crew were assembled from the local New York City talent pool.--© Schofield Filmsmore
as Frank Zabrisky
as Donna Conneally
as Father Vic
as Nick Pagliona
as Eddie Conneally
as Brenda Turko
as Vince Vallone
as Ellen Pagliona
as Nick Pagliona Sr.
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A slightly bizarre film but held my interest right to the end. The characters seemed so real. There were some holes in the story but in the end they didn't matter.
No words of praise can be too high. This is a story without pretense: real friends among real people in a real Italian Hoboken neighborhood playing out, through a plot of surprising, alarming depth, the reality of their relationships -- mean or fine -- in real dives and real laundromats. It's not a movie of profound ideas; it's a movie of profound emotions: of complex affections and loyalties, of substantial characters surprised at their own feelings and confused by their own unchecked actions, of intricacy out of the simple, nobility from the ordinary. The only pretense here is the studied lack of all pretense.
Before another word: all the roles, [u][i]all[/i][/u] of them -- wives, buddies, parents, priest, gangster, cop and boss -- are played here with the robust perfection, depth and sensitivity that allows no space between actor and role, a credit also to director, cinematographer, writer and editor who have orchestrated, captured and rendered them all in exquisite and moving detail.
I could offer dozens of examples. Here's one: at moments of rapid emotional crisis among the characters in dialogue and plot, the camera time and again includes distantly among the commotion Angela Pupello's wordlessly expressive glance (how does she express such specific response with just her eyes and a bit of lighting?) -- blink twice and you'll miss it, and you don't want to miss it! -- a silent counterpoint to remind quickly of the sensitive web that touches every role with a stake in this story. Or Stephie Kurtzuba (whose plays defensive, vapid meanness with irresistable relish; you just want to see more and more, as repulsive and richly hateful as it is -- that cigarette!) sitting bust forward like a fortress, her formidable defenses ready to take on the worst. It's a little detail -- again, blink and it's gone -- but wonderful. There are many, many more such, ranging over every actor.
Special mention must be made of the central role, because it is this role that carries the whole. Elizabeth Regen, working from an ideally naturalistic script, has created a woman this viewer will not soon forget. I believe I have never been so moved by a character in drama. The operatic premise helps, of course, to pull on the heartstrings, but this is sublime acting in a role of almost unbearable beauty. I don't think I could watch it twice. Like love, it's too painful to want to repeat.
So much for the production values.
The story is butressed by one of the most appealing of all situations, maybe first introduced by Remarque's "Three Comrades" -- three close buddies and a first-rate gal included in their friendship. Set them in an ethnic neighborhood and give the buddies three wives and you're ready to roll.
Against this background all hung in thick cliches, all endearing, all forgivable, the plot proceeds from the most Pirandellian means: a single act, a few words, the mere existence of a single character, inevitably and irretrievably bends the rigid social framework plucking the human roles out of their tight but fragile security, cleaving them from their intimate loves and loyalties. This plot is anything but hackneyed.
The irreversible trajedy is punctuated by outrageous humor, here and there predictable, but the slyer moments where the humor proceeds from character itself rather than gimmick, wickedly funny, belly-laugh funny. At the moral center stands the familiar polar contrast between cold, fierce, defensive respectability and the heat of genuine, open feeling, warm with reflective compassion.
In a word, the movie explores the confluence of friendship and love, that vague, welcoming climate home to both where the two, loyalty on the one side and desire on the other, can't be distinguished. It is the achievement of this particular exploration that it gives to the players such extraordinary nobility.
Some will love the music. I appreciate the choices, especially the use of a non-operatic voice in the soprano arias, but I'd have enjoyed the movie just as much without any music at all. Unerring screenplay, overwhelming acting, brilliant, incisive cinematography and direction and editing, who needs music?
I love these people, these actors, these movie-makers. The genuine historic Hoboken, gentrifying quickly and quickly disappearing, can't have been given a better tribute.
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