Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #1: Camille (2009)

Italy / 20 minutes / color / Sputnik Dir & Scr: Piero Costantini Pr: Albertina Passoni, Ado Costantini, Piero Costantini, Eleonora Cardellini Story: Eleonora Cardellini Cine: Blasco Giurato Cast: Laura Nardi, Amandio Pinheiro, Jacopo Robortella, Cristian Giammarini

A remarkably spooky while at the same time wry little number to which any description I offer here can probably not do sufficient justice.

Paolo (Giammarini) sends his lovely wife Elena (Nardi) and cute young son Luca (Robortella) on vacation for a few days to a coastal holiday cottage the family’s been to before, promising to join them on the morrow. We can see by the expression on his face that there’s something ulterior on his mind—a night with a mistress, perhaps?

Cristian Giammarini as Paolo

The setting of the cottage is lovely, and cinematographer Blasco Giurato clearly had a ball with the location, wherever it was. Here are just a few of dozens of shots I could have chosen to illustrate this point:

Soon mother and son meet the Gardener (Pinheiro), who’s been hired for years to visit the place regularly and keep the extensive grounds in order. He tells them the tale of a cat who used to frequent the place, whom he named Camille, and of the time when the house’s old owner asked him to kill Camille. The Gardener didn’t want to, but complied, slaughtering the cat with his garden spade and then tossing it in a sack into a resting place by the water tank. But it must be holy water in there, the Gardener concludes, because very soon Camille reappeared “more alive than ever.”

Laura Nardi as Elena

Jacopo Robortella as Luca

The Gardener’s ostensibly very friendly, and that’s how Elena accepts him at first—in fact, I wondered if the movie was going to be a tale of a fling, because clearly things are not good between Elena and husband Paolo. Yet my speculation was completely misguided: Camille fits far more into this site’s theme than you might expect.

Amandio Pinheiro as the Gardener

The sequence that’ll stay with me the longest, I think, and probably sometimes at 4am, shows us Elena walking at night around the house’s drained outdoor swimming pool and seeing a crouched figure, face hood-covered, on the concrete perimeter. She assumes it must be son Luca but, as she moves to raise the hood and reveal the face, the figure melts away to reappear further around the perimeter. She approaches it yet again, and the same thing happens. And again . . .

This is such a beautifully made little movie, such an exquisitely finished piece, that I was naturally interested to find out what else its principal creators (Piero Costantini, who directed, and Eleonora Cardellini, who created the original story, jointly produced and, with some help from Camille Saint-Saëns’s Le Carnival des Animaux, was responsible for the original soundtrack, on which she also provided vocals) might have done and was surprised to find the answer to my query was: Not Much. This seems to have been the last efflorescence of Costantini’s extremely brief cinema career and to represent Cardellini’s sole screen credit.

Laura Nardi, who’s very good here, has, unsurprisingly had a more prolonged screen career, mainly as Valeria Dupré in the Italian TV soap Incantesimo (2000–2002), and Amandio Pinheiro, also good (although it’s difficult to like his character in Camille!), has a fair number of screen credits.

It came as no surprise to me at all that the movie’s cinematographer, Blasco Giurato, has scores of credits. His work here is gorgeous.

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