Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle


Grade : A- Year : 2016 Director : Christopher Di Nunzio Running Time : 1hr 26min Genre : , ,
Movie review score

A common thread in my reviews of Christopher Di Nunzio’s films has been in praise of his diversity as a filmmaker, whether it’s moving between features and shorts, documentaries or narratives, crime or more surreal genres. It almost feels redundant to do so again, but the fact is, Di Nunzio really doesn’t make the same film twice, which is part of why he work is so enthralling as a critic and movie fan. There is nothing wrong with filmmakers who stick to particular motifs and themes, but there’s something about a director like Di Nunzio that is just exciting to watch, even if one film doesn’t quite match up with the previous one. That is the case with his latest feature, “Delusion,” but, if you’ll forgive the phrasing, you’d have to be delusional if you think that doesn’t make it a fascinating new chapter in DiNunzio’s career.

The film focuses in on Frank (David Graziano), a widower whose wife died unexpectedly three years ago. We meet him as he is talking with his nephew, Tommy (Justin Thibault). He has something unusual to share with Tommy- a letter from his late wife, Isabella (Carlyne Fournier). There’s no explanation for why it showed up now, but it seems to have arrived at a pivotal moment in Frank’s grieving process. Tommy asks him about whether Frank might be interested in dating again, and Frank receiving this letter seems to be a good catalyst for moving on. A woman he comes across one day, Mary (Jami Tennille), could be that person he moves on with, but he’s also having some psychological issues that force him to try and tap into the spiritual realm that she came to believe in by the end of her life. The question becomes, will he come to accept that as something that is important for him as he tries to move on, especially when the possibility of being tempted away from the light by a succubus is mentioned by a psychic he visits?

Di Nunzio focuses intently on the emotional state of his subjects with each film, whether you’re talking about the people celebrating a beloved saint in his documentary, “Viva! Saint Agrippina,” the husband concerned about his wife in “Her Heart Still Beats,” the woman of “Nihilism,” or the hitmen of “Under the Dark Wing” and “A Life Not to Follow,” and Frank is no exception. In a way, this may be the most emotional journey we’ve seen out of Di Nunzio yet (from a fictional standpoint, at least), and that makes the surreal nature of Frank’s journey (the visions, the flashbacks with his wife and her talks of spirituality) more palpable and powerful to watch. A movie like this relies on strong storytelling instincts, as well as technical qualities behind-the-scenes, and “Delusion” has some of the strongest on both levels from his films, starting with the cinematography by Nolan Yee and music by Frederic Mauerhofer. From a performance standpoint, Graziano is terrific as Frank, as he really captures the characters acceptance of his wife’s dying wish to move on while also the searching nature of Frank’s trying to understand the spiritual when his delusions begin. An important figure in that quest towards understanding is the psychic he goes to visit, who is lured in by what she sees when he visits, and Irina Peligrad plays an unexpectedly key role in the film as Lavinia. I don’t know if the horror elements work quite as well as the larger emotional narrative of the film, but it’s enough that he is taking chances and trying new avenues of storytelling from film to film. That his successes are tied to his ability to illicit emotions about the characters is the most important part- everything else will work itself out in the end. I’m just curious where he’ll take his viewers next.

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