THE HAND OF GOD – Review by Susan Granger

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Oscar-nominated as Best International Film, Italy’s The Hand of God is Paul Sorrentino’s intensely personal coming-of-age story, set in Naples in the 1980s.

That’s when Argentina’s Diego Maradona was worshipped as the best soccer player in the world; the title comes from a controversial goal scored by Maradona in the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal against England.

Although Fabietto Schisa (Filippo Scotti) is one of Maradona’s most avid fans, he also adores his sensual Aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri), who dazzles menfolk when she sunbathes nude, much to the chagrin of her enraged husband, Franco (Massimiliano Gallo).

Fabietto’s best-friend is his older brother, Marchino (Marlo Joubert), an aspiring actor who once auditioned for Federico Felllini, who said: “Cinema is a distraction; reality is second-rate.”

The brothers still share a room in the home their parents: Saverio (Toni Servillo), an outspoken Communist, and prank-playing Maria (Teresa Saponangelo). Fabietto’s extended family includes a cantankerous uncle and a foul-mouthed elderly aunt who wears a fur coat, even in the summer, as she chomps on a dripping burrata.

Sorrentino’s kaleidoscopic barrage of semi-autobiographical vignettes includes his erotic experience with The Baroness (Betti Pedrazzi), who lives upstairs and summons Fabietto for an intimate interlude in which he loses his virginity. In another episode, he takes off for Capri with Armando (Biagio Manna), a small-time crook who befriended him.

Of even greater significance, there’s his encounter in the Galleria Umberto with Neapolitan screenwriter/director Antonio Capuano (Ciro Capano), who becomes his mentor, encouraging his creativity. Sorrentino later co-wrote Capuano’s The Dust of Naples (1998).

Add to that Daria D’Antonio’s elegant cinematography and Lele Marchitelli’s score.

Paul Sorrentino, who won an Academy Award for The Great Beauty (2012), told the Venice Film Festival audience: “This is a film about sensibility – and hovering above everything, so close and yet so far, is Maradona, who seemed to sustain the lives of everyone in Naples, or at least mine.”

In Italian with English subtitles, on the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, The Hand of God is a poignant 7, streaming on Netflix.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.