Dir.: Gabriele Fabbro; Cast: Lidia Vitale, Ludovica Mancini, Marcello Mariani, Filippo Prandi; Italy 2021, 90 min.
Gabriele Fabbro draws on an award-winning background in music promos and commercials with this surprise mixture of horror and musical drama with a lesbian twist. Borrowing for the best of Dario Argento and Luis Bunuel The Grand Bolero will particularly appeal to classical music lovers.
In a dilapidated 17th century church in the Italian countryside during the recent pandemic, a banner proclaims “Everything will be fine” – but everyone knows this is wishful thinking. Father Paolo (Mariani) spends his days ringing the bells to mark another steep rise in the number of victims struck down during the first lockdown . The church houses two organs: one from the 15th century, the other from the 19th – that really came into its own during the era of silent films.
Middle-aged control freak Roxanne (Vitale) is in charge of the organ’s restoration programme, and is furious when Paolo presents her with a mute assistant called Lucia (Mancini) who has been taking artefacts from the church and passing them on to a man called Luca (Prandi) – who could be her brother or even a lover.
Roxanne becomes so obsessed with Lucia she does everything in her power to humiliate the young woman, but has to pipe down when it turns out Lucia is also a gifted organ player. For Lucia’s character Fabbro and his co-writer Ydalie Turk clearly had Jeanne Moreau in mind from Bunuel’s The Diary of a Chambermaid – the original tempestuous subordinate turned mistress. The enigma of Lucia remains mysteriously, and suitably, unresolved. The peaceful wood near the church becomes a hunting ground of violent emotions transforming the fairy story into a Grand Guignol finale.
The Grand Bolero culminates in an orgy of music, featuring everything from the Ravel to Holst and other European organ masters. The narrative is driven forward by Roxanne’s lust for Lucia that seems to devour everything as it builds towards the climactic reveal. Gabriele Fabbro leaves us breathless but satisfied: having pulled out every stop, in more ways that one, for this imaginative debut underpinned by considerable filmmaking experience. AS
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