SFashion, Directed by Mauro John Capece
SFashion is the newest film out of Italy from indie film director Mauro John Capece. Starring Corinna Coroneo, it features elements which have appeared in other work from Capece and Coroneo, and examines the relationship between art and capitalism, their collusions and collisions. Coroneo, also the film’s co-writer, stars as Evelyn, the CEO of a successful and reputable fashion firm in Italy. The company has international clientele — most notably for her and her colleagues, in the U.S. — and produces high quality clothing for rich customers. The trouble is, Italy and the world are at the brink of economic disaster, an ‘unprecedented crisis’ which threatens to put their high-brow brand out of business.
The company belongs to her, but it wasn’t always so. Her grandfather founded it 40 years ago. After his recent death, the responsibility of running the company has fallen on her shoulders. And so has the burden of steering safely through the economic crisis and emerging unscathed. She doubts her own abilities to do it, frequently making reference to her grandfather, asking herself what he would have done. Anyone in her shoes would question their abilities in such difficult times, assures her most trusted advisor, Bartolomeo (Giacinto Palmarini). The most important thing, he says, is not to lose hope.
But despite financial cuts and attempts to stave off decreased production, layoffs, and bankruptcy, the economic pressures mount — and the burdens for Evelyn become too much to handle.
The film is a portrait of a woman at the top. She has to make difficult decisions, and although her colleagues are on her side, everyone has an opinion and offers advice which frequently disagrees with her own judgment. It is a story not just of a company in crisis, but of a woman in crisis. She thinks about running away, and frequently takes refuge in her memories and in the shade of an olive tree named Antoine, gifted to her as a child by her dead grandfather. Memories and the imagined voice of Antoine (yes, the tree speaks to her), however, frequently haunt her as she continues to doubt her ability to survive the turmoil. Her isolation becomes palpable as, one by one, the people who used to be closest to her fall away. Her ex-husband has filed a restraining order, her employees begin to turn on her as the company loses its financial footing, and her loved ones cannot seem to escape imminent death.
She herself fantasises about escaping the situation — and the thought of death itself becomes for her a mode of escape. Funerals in the film bring together people who otherwise hate one another, and also offer a gruesome symbol for escape. Her fantasies extend, in fact, into the biblical when she imagines for herself a crucifixion. ‘[T]he more you do good’, she says to Antoine, ‘the more you are judged and put on a cross’. She has good intentions, but they don’t prevent the inevitable conclusion. Evelyn is a tragic hero. She sits at the helm of a failing enterprise whose purpose is to create art. But both she and the art she creates are subject to the pressures of a market in turmoil and a collapsing system beyond her control.
Despite these cerebral themes, or perhaps because of them, the film doesn’t quite pull you in the way it might if executed differently. The production is highly experimental, featuring highly edited scenes and unusual camera angles which are to its benefit, but the lack of well-written dialogue to accompany these methods, as well as the film’s unusually slow pace, make for a story which doesn’t quite captivate, though the story intrigues. One doesn’t find oneself on Evelyn’s side, either. She tries her best, but at the end she is deeply flawed — vain, self-victimising, even delusional. She may be crucified, but she’s no Jesus. ■
Runtime: 100 minutes
Genre: Dramatic Feature, Experimental
Language: Italian, English
Find out more
Find more about this film and the work of Italian filmmaker Mauro John Capece on the pages for SFashion and Mauro John Capece in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and the film’s page on Facebook. Capece is an independent director, writer, and producer. SFashion premiered at the 40th Montreal World Film Festival.
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: Corinna Coroneo as Evelyn, conducting a business meeting in ‘SFashion’.