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  • Writer's pictureJack Salvadori

Venice 78: "Freaks Out" Review

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

And so Italian cinema has finally discovered CGI

Unfortunately, Freaks Out confirmed my cheerless suspicion: Gabriele Mainetti is nothing more than a commercial director, and not the latest upcoming auteur, as someone suggested after his first feature - They Call Me Jeeg .

Just like any other superhero movie, Freaks Out is a collage of computer generated effects with little depth underneath. The unusual phenomenon of Mainetti’s rise to fame is due to the total absence of “theme park” flicks, as Scorsese defined them, in the Italian cinema canon. But this uniqueness should not be mistaken for originality. What might have been a quirky roman social satire is merely a change of setting and punchlines in dialect. Freaks Out is a wannabe blockbuster, structured like a comic and with over-stylised aesthetics and characters.

Speaking of such characters, Mainetti introduces us to a Chewbacca-like hairy man, a kid who can control insects, a mentally-challenged magnetic dwarf and an electric girl, who are meant to alter the fate of World War II. How, you might ask? Ask Mainetti, because I have no idea. Yet, apparently a visionary Nazi circus owner is certain of their potential, and he scouts the freaks while applying a concentration camp system in his carny enterprise. The Nazi symbolism merged with classical circus aesthetics is perhaps the freshest and most successful experiment of the film, infusing a Burtonesque vibe. Still, the cringeworthy, in-your-face cult cinematic references, randomly paying homage to Rossellini, Chaplin and Tarantino, have dubious relevance, and once more highlight the director’s naïve playfulness. After all, he makes the movie he wants, his fantasy, his vision, and it should be regarded for what it is; a fun, way-too-long Mediterranean entry into the superhero genre, and not a Competition film at the Venice Film Festival. It will be enjoyable for superhero genre fans, and unbearable as any other Marvel film for everyone else.


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