Naples’ Mythical Tale ‘Parthenope’ Leaves Critics Divided

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by InTrieste

Tuesday night at the Cannes Film Festival all eyes were on “Parthenope,” the only Italian movie running for the prestigious Palm D’Or. A24—one of the market’s great tastemakers—had acquired Paolo Sorrentino’s next Naples-set epic shortly before the festival began, indicating that this project might become a similar sensation.

The film showcases BAFTA winner Sorrentino (“The Great Beauty,” “The Hand of God”) at his most indulgent. There are some breathtaking visuals and a perfectly pitched soundscape, but also an overwrought script that gets in his way and fetishizes his heroine.

“Parthenope” stars Celeste Dalla Porta (making her film debut) in the titular role, a rare beauty born in the sea—true to the Parthenope myth’s origins—who navigates the tumult of an emotionally volatile family, the endless attention of boys and men, and the rigorous expectations of academia. She weathers tragedy, lost loves, and professional setbacks, all captured by Sorrentino against the singular beauty of Naples. “Her view becomes more critical when a more disenchanted phase of her life begins,” Sorrentino said at a press conference on Wednesday. “She is a free and spontaneous woman, who does not judge—exactly like the city.”

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