The Apprentice | l’Apprendistato (2019) Locarno Film Festival

August 11th, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Davide Maldi | Doc Italy 84’

At dusk, fourteen-year-old Luca carries food into his family’s cowshed for the last time. His life in the mountains is about to come to an end: he is enrolling in catering school to learn the trade as quickly as possible.

Doing things properly will never go out of fashion, and this is particularly true when it comes to the art of serving in hotels and eating establishments. But is this kind of work still feasible in the 21st century where machines are gradually taking over. As a “a democratic republic founded on work”. Italy has always prided itself on a reputation for stratospheric standards of service. \working in the hospitality industry is a highly respectable career and serving is an art to be proud of. Hotel School has always been one of the popular options after schooldays are over.

Davide Maldi’s third feature, a docu-drama, follows a group of young apprentices at hotel school and Luca Tufano  is one of them. The young men – there are only two girls on the course – learn basic skills such as how to serve and prepare food at the table, to balance a tray, and take an order/booking over the telephone, but there is much more to learn apart from these obvious ones. The school is renowned for its strict teaching methods: students learn that the customer is king and the source of their income. The lessons on cooking, dining room etiquette, law and religion, repeated day after day, make them endlessly confront their weaknesses, insecurities and abilities. At the end of the year Luca, immaculate in his black uniform with shiny shoes, will walk into the great hall and face the first test of his new career as a waiter and future maître d’hôtel – even though his lack of people skills makes him a non-starter for this type of career. Maldi shows Maldi’s handles his subject matter with mastery and breathing dark humour into this absorbing story of the making of servants and masters. MT

LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL | CINEASTI DEL PRESENTE | 7-17 AUGUST 2019

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