Thursday, July 3, 2014

La Mia Classe (2013): Going Meta-Overboard

La Mia Classe (2013)
(aka My Class)
dir: Daniele Gaglianone

One of my traditionally favorite formulas is the story by proxy formula. In this formula, it's generally a group setting, and in one remote location. The story, we learn, is happening off stage, and we're learning about it piece by piece through the dialogue only. Generally, this works best on radio or on stage, and it helps to have only a handful of stories progressing at any one point. But, the action only sometimes interrupts the on-stage/screen action, with most climaxes happening off screen as well.

This formula must fascinate Gaglianone as well, as La Mia Classe uses the formula, then makes meta-commentary on the meta-formula, thus making everything meta squared.

Gaglianone is tackling some heavy, hefty, issues with La Mia Classe that affect a broad range of people, namely that of immigration and treatment of immigrants in the country of Italy. He sets La Mia Classe as a cinema verite style peek inside an Italian as Second Language class for immigrants. He fills the classroom with a wide variety of immigrants from a variety of places - Egypt, India, Libya, etc - and with a variety of reasons for not wanting to remain in their own country: money problems, cultural pressures, etc. Through the language exercises, we learn what these situations are, and the struggles that happens because of their being an immigrant.

But, Gaglianone also poses La Mia Classe as a documentary about the making of the narrative feature La Mia Classe and also a behind the scenes of the making of that documentary. He opens the film with the students testing their various microphones before the shooting is supposed to begin. But, before that, we explore the halls of an empty school into an empty room, as if the class had happened long ago in a different time period. At one point in the film, a student walks up to the teacher saying he has problems with his residential status papers, but then at another point, a student walks up to a producer with the same problems creating a hullabaloo. At yet another point, the film is documenting the setting up of a shot for a student to sleep in a park, and then filming the sleeping in the park.

Gaglianone goes overly meta to get the point across that this isn't your traditional poor weepy, but this stuff actually happens, but he loses the point of going meta by making his meta narrative kind of wishy-washy in its status as a non-fiction fictional narrative, and thus making everything seem faker and less urgent than it may actually be in that country.As a counter-example, Interior. Leather Bar. is a meta-narrative where the whole thing is scripted, but it's scripted as if it is a documentary, and doesn't half-ass or confuse any of the scenes. Thus, the scenes in Interior. Leather Bar. while climbing up its own ass still, seem more real than the scenes in La Mia Classe.

The missed opportunity is great here, because when La Mia Classe is on, it's really on. And, when it's off, it's really off. It's a point blank disappointment that's greater because it was reaching for the stars and burnt out before it reached it's destination. The acting didn't help because most of the students seemed to be able to speak Italian with great ease, and the mistakes also seemed scripted. But, what do I know? It's not my language. Nor my country.

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