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Adele Tulli’s quizzically entitled film, Normal, is an elegantly composed, pleasingly shot series of vignettes, presented in a documentary style that I think of as anthropo-deadpan – the Austrian film-maker Nikolaus Geyrhalter is a master of this. Tulli is taking issue with the normality of sexual stereotypes as they are manufactured in Italy, from toddlerhood to early middle age. It is well made and there are some very startling moments, although I wonder if, in the end, this film is a beautifully made sermon to the choir.
A seraphically calm and heartbreakingly sweet little girl submits (with face in extreme closeup) to having earrings attached by a doctor; a boy prepares for a speedway event with his dad cheering lustily from the sidelines; a plastics factory turns out plastic moulds for irons, and then we see a pink-coloured plastic doll’s house set for girls – stomach-turningly, it includes a dinky little pink spray canister for cleaning ovens. Teenage girls gather swooningly around a boy pop star; a guy receives alpha-male conversational coaching for picking up women.
There is a beauty contest, sponsored by a cosmetics manufacturer, in which young women parade in bikinis talking about their law degrees; and a class for brides-to-be in how to be absolutely submissive wives – cooking, cleaning and agreeing to treat their husbands as another child to be adored and placated. At the end, pivoting away from heterosexuality, there is a gay civil partnership ceremony for two men. Tulli coolly includes the photograph of the happy couple with their respective parents and the mother of one of the grooms looks less than happy.
It is visually acute. There is shrewdness and wit there, but also something a little slick. Each of the individual scenes could almost work as a TV ad for something. Tulli’s talent and technique can’t be doubted.
• Normal is released in the UK on 27 September.
Source: The Guardian
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