'Princess' Review – Venice Film Festival – Deadline

‘Princess’ Review – Venice Film Festival – Deadline

Roberto De Paolis’ second film has such a heightened sense of the absurd, a playful, almost naive tone that is completely at odds with its subject matter, that it can only come from real life. That turns out to be the case at the opening of the Horizons section of the Venice Film Festival. Princess, a story based on the real experiences of Nigerian sex workers, many of them trafficked, in contemporary Italy. The result is a curiously dizzying mix of comedy and drama that, while it takes an admirable view of its main character as a complex heroine rather than a victim to be pitied, falls into many of the same tropes in more stereotypical portrayals of the prostitution.

The main character, Princess (Glory Kevin), works in a forest on the outskirts of a big city with her friend Success, with whom she competes for “clients”, usually white men who pull up in their sports cars, pickup trucks, and family vans. Princess wears a pink wig, Success a red wig, and then after a fight they trade hairpieces to see who is more popular.

It’s a largely scary story, but the opening scenario sets a rather strange tone; After being hassled by a group of construction workers posing as punters, Princess finds a roadkill and brings it back to the rundown camp where she and Success cook it for the rest of their circle of mostly Nigerian friends.

This is a rare glimpse into the true poverty experienced by these working girls, whose “other” existence is completely mediated by money, from the social pressures of needing it just to survive to the greed of their families back home. The talk is rapid, a mix of very basic Italian and pidgin English that would be nearly impossible to follow without subtitles, and which leads to some pretty hilarious miscommunications (street performer Kevin has a natural flair for physical comedy).

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For the most part, however, Princess details the life those girls would live in this strangely timeless forest world, which is free of pimps and surprisingly low in terms of miseries one would expect to see prostitutes inflicted (one of the worst things that can happen to Princess is that a cabbie creepy, having cajoled her into posing nude, she walks off in all her clothes).

Princess even gets to enjoy life a little, when a friendly stranger comes looking for mushrooms. His name is Corrado (Lino Musella), and Princess gives him the tough opportunity—after all, she has to do her “job,” but Corrado resists. The next time they meet, he becomes more interested in her and so is she, even though he’s the kind of nerdy bachelor who takes her on road trips to the coast to feed the seagulls. The princess feels safe with him, and a kind of chaste love story unfolds, though how someone can fall in love so quickly with a random prostitute they met in the bushes is never fully explained (not exactly the setting of Pretty Womanthat’s for sure), another flaw in a script that feels more like a collage of memories and anecdotes than a finely crafted character piece.

Despite our fears for Princess, the film ends on a bittersweet note, thankfully eschewing any kind of last-reel upset in favor of something more realistic (the film has an odd mischievous tone reminiscent of the controversial exploitation film by Fernando Di Leo from 1978). being twenty, which ended in a shocking scene of random violence). But at the same time, there’s a sense of anticlimax to it, being neither tough nor forceful nor radically joyous, Princess It doesn’t really come with stakes. The princess herself is an attractive character and, because of her fixation on money, often downright unfriendly, but she is the one aspect of the film that will probably stick in the memory.

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