MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wlmington on Movies: Black Souls

BLACK SOULS ( Four Stars)

Italy: Francesco Munzi, 2014


Dark, stark and bleak, and filled with a foreboding sense of impending disaster, Francesco Munzi’s Black Souls is an anti-romantic Italian mob drama — a great brooding powerhouse of a film that reminds you of violent mob classics like The Godfather and Goodfellas, and more recent Italian crime gems like Gomorrah, only to veer off into a shocking climax that’s more reminiscent in tone and impact of a Greek tragedy.

Adapted from the novel by Gioacchino Criaco, it’s a potent piece of crime-film-work. Munzi’s tale of three brothers, the Carbones of Calabria — whose family business and focus has evolved from goat farming in the mountain villages of Southern Italy, to membership in the local Calabrian mob, the ’ndrangheta, and into the more lucrative but dangerous profession of cocaine smuggling in Milan — has an almost mesmerizing force, a sinister visual poetry, the icy grip of a true thriller. There’s an almost swooning inevitability about the destruction that begins to overtake and swallow up these characters from the very first scenes, and one watches them struggle with a sense of unavoidable angst and heart-rending fitness.

Gradually, as Munzi shows the blood feuds that ultimately carry everyone away, we see the Carbone family fall apart: genial, glad-handing mob boss Luigi (Marco Leonardo), who wants everyone to love him (or, failing that, to respect him), Luigi‘s quieter, more sober mob-business-manager brother Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta), who wants the numbers to add up and any murderous business clashes to be avoided, and, most tragic of all, their non-criminal brother, goat farmer Luciana (Fabrizio Ferracane), who wants no part of his family’s illegal success —  and his hot-headed, hedonistic 20-year-old  son Leo (Giuseppe Fumo), who does. As the story unfolds, Munzi (The Rest of the Night) and his co-writers Fabrizio Ruggirellio and Maurizio Braucci  immerse us in the long-held, meticulous traditions of their world (or of their separate worlds), and of their women, including Rocco‘s chic Northern Italian wife Valeria (Barbora Bobulova) and Luciano’s traditionalist country wife Antonia (Anna Ferruzzo). They then reveal how all that can  collapse as well.

Munzi tells their story not with the hot-blooded operatic fervor we expect elsewhere, but with  a mixture of quiet realism, dirge-like melancholy and low-key intensity — and with a simmering tension that always reminds you of the violence that lies just underneath the semblance of family bonds and feeling that supposedly unites all these Carbones. There’s scant romanticism here, and little wild humor — and no one will, like Leo, want to live this life after seeing what happens. That’s true of the Mafia masterpieces of Coppola and Scorsese as well. But it’s doubly true here — in this more classic, less sensational rendering of the wages of sin and death.

Munzi is not as brilliant a filmmaker as Coppola or Scorsese  — or, probably, as his Italian colleague Matteo Garrone of Gomorrah. But he’s damned good. He knows how to create characters and the world they live in. Leonardi’s glad-handing mob boss Luigi, Mazzotta’s professorial Rocco and Ferracane’s pent-up, furious village patriarch Luciano make almost as powerful, if not quite as memorable a brotherly trio as Michael, Sonny and Fredo in The Godfather.  But Munzi is building on past mob movie tropes and archetypes, not simply recapitulating them. The darkness of the Carbones’ world catches you almost as inexorably as its best predecessors. And, after hopping on the crazed rollercoasters of many modern crime and action shows, it’s refreshing to see a violent movie that makes sense, with characters that seem not just impossibly good or incredibly evil or wildly unlikely, but richly, fallibly, terrifyingly human. (In Italian, with subtitles.)

In Los Angeles, in Landmark’s Nuart Theatre. Also in Landmark Theatres across the country.

Be Sociable, Share!

One Response to “Wlmington on Movies: Black Souls”

  1. carl nehring says:

    Is, or will Black Souls be on DVD? Thank you in advance.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon