arrangiarsi: (pizza…and the art of living) (Matteo Troncone, 2017): USA | Italy

Reviewed by Susan Cochran. Viewed at Metro 4 Theaters, Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2017.

Image result for pizza naples italy photo gallery

Director, actor, cinematographer, editor, screenwriter, musician, financier Matteo Troncone describes his documentary as more of a nonfiction narrative. There is no doubt this film is his passionate love story about heritage, family, Naples, following a dream, having the faith that spirit takes care of you, and…oh, pizza. Seven years in the making, Troncone takes us on an entertaining rollercoaster ride. Put your seat belts on…

When Troncone’s life comes to a turning point, he moves into his 1985 VW Van and begins filming his new arrangement. Then he sets off to discover his father’s heritage in Naples, Italy. With no money but a free ticket from a friend, he travels against the advice of others. Once there, he learns the art of arrangiarsi – the art of arranging, the art of living.  This means overcoming an obstacle. Naples is the center of this art and Troncone is fascinated by the residents and street artists who “arrange” and make something out of nothing. He also cites that the best pizza in the world is made in Naples. Pizza is water and flour, food for the poor. Something out of nothing. He delves into the politics of pizza and we continue on his wild ride back and forth to Italy.

Troncone films with a $1,000 Canon camera. He states he knows nothing about film making and that seems to be his strength because he just goes for it. He films his van/home parked on the dark streets in Northern California, on vacant lots, and even on the lift at the auto repair shop where he is stuck for three nights.

Using only natural light, camera shots are hand held, shaky, perfect, in and out of focus, and sometimes the sound is muffled but we feel we are there. Spontaneous and unplanned, he shoots what he sees and also turns the camera on himself. We see his happiness, his despair, his worry, his hope and his knowing that things will work out exactly how they are supposed to…and they do. A friend sees his footage and points out that he is living “arrangiarsi” as he runs out of money, lives simply, arranges places to camp out and gets to know the tow truck driver on a first name basis.

Back to Naples with $4 in his account (he shows us on screen) he lives in a hostel while waiting for funds to come in. He sleeps above a preschool at night. He stays with a friend. He sleeps in a tent. He arranges. And we’re back to pizza. Out to the fields to meet his new friends who grow the tomatoes then to the dairy farm to meet the happy water buffalo (they get massages) whose milk produces special mozzarella cheese and then to the wheat fields with stunning close up shots and then to an olive harvest (tent time) with sweeping Tuscan views and finally an analysis of the water that some say is the special ingredient of the pizza.

And there is also the history of Naples cleverly woven throughout along with interesting and sometimes hilarious subtitled short interviews. I was expecting to see a little travel film and have a craving for pizza but was rewarded with so much more. This film works and I recommend it on many levels. Troncone proves you can live your dream and he honors his parents with his spirit and positive attitude. He leaves us wondering how we can “arrange” our dreams.




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