Writer-director Fulvio Risuleo impresses with imaginative debut feature Look Up

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      Starring Giacomo Ferrara. In Italian, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable

      A baker’s apprentice takes an early-morning smoke break atop his boss’s building and never makes it back to work. That’s because Teco (Italian TV star Giacomo Ferrara) gets distracted by a huge seagull crash-landing on a nearby roof and then gets sucked into a bizarre kind of overworld he (and we) never knew existed.

      Look Up is a highly imaginative first feature for young writer-director Fulvio Risuleo, who here combines his obvious love of classic cinema with a taste for the cryptically surreal. Cinephiles will find hints of fantastic Fellini, deadpan Jim Jarmusch, and humanistic Wim Wenders floating throughout this journey, which manages to be wildly picaresque, even though easygoing Teco—sporting a Kaurismäki pompadour that remains unruffled throughout—never strays more than a few hundred yards away from home base.

      The film was cowritten with Andrea Sorini, who made the recent Baikonur, Earth, another provocative study of the contrast between heavenly pursuits and earthier realities. Recalling Baikonur’s grounded Soviet cosmonaut program, seagulls turn out to be man-made drones; in fact, they contain mummified artifacts left over, perhaps, from earlier human endeavours. This is explained to Teco by an androgynous little girl (Alida Baldari Calabria) who carries her pet chicken everywhere and leads him to a gang of rooftop bambini building a secret rocket to the moon.

      Wearing elaborately coloured paper-bag masks, the kids are locked in mortal combat with local nuns who are also after the seagull messengers—and all the wine they can drink, as we learn when Teco stumbles into a hidden cabaret. There, strange music is performed by electronic composer Sun Araw, who also supplies the appropriately disorienting soundtrack.

      This visit comes after Teco passes out in the tucked-away garden of a beekeeping hermit played by white-bearded Lou Castel, a Swedish actor whose Italian-neorealist lineage goes all the way back to 1965’s Fists in the Pocket. He also prowls heating ducts with a French parachutist (Aurélia Poirier) escaping her Czech boyfriend (Ivan Franek), and runs into nudist twins and other weird characters. The film’s structural weaknesses are exposed during halting multilingual conversations that don’t really amount to much. But at less than 90 minutes of breezy, children’s-book fun, it announces Risuleo as a not-too-serious talent to watch.