The Young Observant review – teenage kicks at prestigious Italian waiter school | World cinema

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This film is avowedly a docu-fictional hybrid, for which director Davide Maldi has shot fly-on-the-wall nonfiction scenes at a prestigious Italian “silver service” catering college where teenage boys are schooled in the ways of becoming smoothly efficient waiters in white jackets and bow ties. The fictional aspect evidently comes later, with the careful selection and curation of scenes, although this is arguably no more “fictional” a procedure than in any other documentary.

It follows Luca Tufano, whose blank, unreadable expression becomes more enigmatic as the film progresses. He is quite obviously terrible at this vocation, at one stage dropping an entire tray of glasses with a deafening crash. But at no point does Tufano talk back, or jeer at his teachers; neither does he look contrite, worried or determined to mend his ways. With a group of other boys, he is told how to lay tables and present food, how to stay alert and be discreetly polite and cheerful, and never to discuss his own views on politics and religion (although the boys are apparently required to attend some sort of creationist religious class as part of the course). They attend hotels and cruise ships where careworn waiters tell them to be on the lookout for different national characteristics at the breakfast buffet (the Spanish are late risers, apparently).

All the time Tufano does appear “observant”, to quote the title, though not quite in the way that is required: not on the lookout for customers to please or messes to clean up, but observant in the sense of silently watchful, withholding his own identity as his only way of preserving some self-respect. So perhaps he is a natural waiter after all, and as you look at Tufano’s face, you can’t help pondering – what is his destiny? To be a waiter? Or will he storm out, start a business and become fawned upon by waiters? To anyone who has ever tried to catch a waiter’s eye, one thing these trainees are told is interesting: “Your gaze is your own – it’s up to you to decide when to meet theirs.”

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Source: The Guardian
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