Nail Chiodo

About “The Insignificant Other”

A description and synopsis of the feature-length film.

An archaeological “trouvaille”, a movie miraculously survived from the seventies that casts new, cold, revealing light upon past and contemporary mores; the ghost of Henry James rising from Highbrow Hell to harrow the dumbed-down, fatted calves of yesteryear and today.
Arguably, this feature film belongs in the Guinness Book of World Records as the one that has taken the longest to finish (1978-2000) and to be publicly presented (it was first shown in 2007, at the New York Underground Film Festival) after surviving the worst possible vicissitudes: the shooting, begun in 1978, had to be interrupted for lack of funds and every attempt to resume it failed – a whole late-20th Century novella in itself, of course; then, in what had all the makings of a tragic, fatal blow to the project, the color negative was mistakenly trashed by the lab that had it on deposit; so all that remained was a heavily manhandled, black-and-white work print which, after careful restoration, was finally completed in the summer of 2000 according to a sub-text script shot over one long week-end in color video.
Even more unique than the countless obstacles that had to be surmounted before the film could be completed, however, is the original, “elevated” cultural paradigm that it represents. Here is a quintessentially cultivated movie, the kind most of the industry and all of the demagogues have always abhorred and effectively almost prevented from ever seeing the light. Here is a precious relic that survives and provides fresh evidence of the deeper meaning and implications of such terms as “independent” and “underground”. Here is an example of the Seventh Art truly for a happy few.
Young people today have a right to ask themselves: couldn’t mommy and daddy see thirty years ago what was going to happen? Why didn’t they do something about it? Well, they tried, but their communication was impaired, it seemed nobody would listen. And, as time went by, the truth got buried deeper and deeper, until it seemed it was gone, forever. Thirty years of social amnesia aren’t easily recouped. But there is always some shred of evidence that survives, some clue one can latch onto to reconstruct the past, to explain the present. Trying to make sense of what went on between Bob and Lisa, the way Cesare does, can be a start.
The time is the summer of 1978, the place an elegant country villa in the outskirts of Padua, Italy. Lisa and Bob, two American yuppies in their mid-twenties, have been invited to sojourn there during their vacations by the owner, Cesare, though he be absent; neither was forewarned, however, of the other’s probable presence. Had they met somewhere back home in the States, they might have had a one-night stand: in finding themselves instead in a foreign country and forced to spend several days together at the same important house, they cannot but manifest their own and discover each other’s deeper nature. Several months later, in the course of a visit to the villa in the company of two of his lady friends, Cesare – who has received letters of complaint from Lisa and Bob about their experiences while they were his guests – reflects in depth, from his own cosmopolitan perspective, on what may have occurred to make their stays so unpleasant.
If you thought “The Big Chill” was cool, grab another sweater.