The Prince of Ostia Bronx is about failure. Or is it?
If fame does not legitimize the figure of the actor, of the artist, one needs to establish who has the right to define art
“Cinema is for people in the academies,” and actors Dario and Maury have been rejected from the academies. All they have left of acting, an art which they haven’t been able to concretize into a profession, is play in the most archaic sense of the word; the ludus which consists in disguising oneself and in painting a grotesque, but by no means less realistic, picture of reality.
Though they have been cut off from the cinematic and theatrical scene, for twenty years the two have carved out a space to express themselves: the nudist beach of Capocotta, Ostia. Their characters, the Prince and the Countess, of Fellinian reminiscence, are by now points of reference for the locals, who unlike the élite of the artistic landscape recognize their socio-cultural value.
Passerini’s docufilm calls for reflection upon concepts such as art, success, and happiness. Dario and Maury’s dream has shattered, since they never became actors. But who is the actor? If he is simply one who plays a part, Dario and Maury fulfill their dream on a daily basis. If anything, they lack an adequate platform: Maury, for instance, suffers from the impossibility to perform in theatre, and fears he might never have the opportunity to do so. But, as Dario explains, visibility and fame matter relatively little if one has succeeded in the already demanding task of conquering “your little audience” (a “piazza”), of “[knocking] down one brick of society’s wall.” If fame does not legitimize the figure of the actor, of the artist, one needs to establish who has the right to define art. The key to interpretation of The Prince of Ostia Bronx lies in this particular question: in order to define the characters as failures or made men, happy or miserable, it is necessary to entrust the judgment to either the critic or the common person who finds representation in Dario and Maury.
Passerini portrays with brutal gentleness the life and love of two men on the margins, who represent a challenge toward both the distinction between high and popular art, and a world where there seems to be no meaning outside profit and utility. Only one certainty remains: Dario and Maury have preferred “the smoke of the barricade” to “the bank” – the musical choice of “Compagno di Scuola” by Antonello Venditti deserves a special mention – and somehow their choice must have been a happy one, insofar as everything, from their eccentric costumes to their house overflowing with film memorabilia, screams love for life.
Director: Raffaele Passerini
Cast: Dario Galletti Magnani, Maurilio Fonte