The Embalmer | Chicago Reader

The Embalmer

Peppino, the hero of this dark love triangle, isn't exactly your standard-issue romantic lead: he's gay, a taxidermist, and a dwarf. In a chance encounter at the zoo he meets a tall, handsome, and remarkably sweet-natured young man who becomes his protege and roommate, the dwarf's genuine charm and affection bringing a certain viability to this unlikely Mutt and Jeff couple. When a decisive young woman, a rival for the lad's attentions, enters the picture, the story takes a decidedly sinister turn, and a sense of imminent doom invades the cozy upscale refuge that Peppino has fashioned for his young charge. The dead animals and taxidermist's tools, benignly shot at first, add to the weight of dread—as do the human corpses with packets of drugs stitched inside, covert work that finances the trio's lavish lifestyle. Peppino's ragged pacing and silent rages escalate, his jealousy infecting every scene; by the film's underwater finale, director Matteo Garrone has bestowed a tragic stature on the pint-size Othello who loves “not wisely but too well.” In Italian with subtitles. 101 min.

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