Culture Clash

Kryptonite!, directed by Ivan Cotroneo, (Italy) 2011, is set in 1973 Napoli. As Rosaria, the mother of nine-year-old Peppino, is taking her son to school, the two are stopped by a cousin who thinks he’s Superman. Gennaro doesn’t let them pass until he conducts a thorough search of Rosaria’s purse for kryptonite, the dreaded substance he believes prevents him from flying.

Peppino is repeatedly tormented by his classmates and terrorized by the teacher. At other times the young boy is shuttled from one family member to another while his mother works as a secretary in the family firm and his father sells sewing machines in a nearby town.

Peppino accompanies his spinster aunt desperate to find a husband. Or he’s taken in tow by a rebellious, carefree younger aunt and uncle so eager for new adventure that they often forget about the boy.

Despite the chaos that surrounds him, Peppino not only survives but also manages to find inner strength and even wisdom, his formative journey aided by imaginary visits from his recently deceased cousin who eventually gains the full status of super hero.

Throughout the film there is a continual intergenerational struggle between rigid, traditional attitudes and the allure of popular music, youth culture, and more radical politics of the time. The first-time director manages to bring the various threads to a satisfying resolution.

Information and tickets for New Italian Cinema screenings available at the San Francisco Film Society.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

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