Finding their way from documentary into fiction by constantly exploring the borders of both forms, the Italian-Austrian team of Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel take with The Shine of Day their most assured step towards feature-length narrative. Again, the duo works around loosely improvised scenes, the same way as in their previous fiction La Pivellina.

     The through-line from La Pivellina and the previous documentary work such as Babooshka is the recurrence of circus artist Walter Saabel, again playing a version of himself. Here, he is a man returning to his native Austria to visit his nephew — rising Austrian actor Philipp Hochmair, also playing a version of himself — with a view to reconnecting eventually with the brother he lost touch with.

     It's precisely in the shifting grounds between truth and fiction, being and acting, playfully represented by Messrs. Saabel and Hochmair's adventures in Hamburg and Vienna, that lies the key of what is Ms. Covi and Mr. Frimmel's finest achievement so far. Their insistence in the lack of a tight narrative may make The Shine of Day seem to wander rather aimlessly — which it does — until a frustrating ending just as a narrative centre seems to have been found (Walter and Philipp's desire to help the wife of the hard-working immigrant from Eastern Europe next door return to Vienna).

     Again, Ms. Covi and Mr. Frimmel develop their interest in making apparently opposite worlds clash: Mr. Hochmair's, lost and absorbed in his own whirling career (to the point we don't really see his real off-stage face until some 20 minutes in, as he leaves the stage in a Thalia Theater production of Woyzeck); and Mr. Saabel's, who is looking to enjoy life as is in a rather long sabbatical. The directors' cinema is more interesting as process than as a result, which makes their work usually somewhat unsatisfying to enjoy but stimulating to think about afterwards - and The Shine of Day is the closest they've ever got to marrying both.

Cast: Philipp Hochmair, Walter Saabel

Directors: Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel
Screenplay: Ms. Covi, Mr. Frimmel, Xaver Bayer
Cinematography: Mr. Frimmel  (colour)
Editors: Ms. Covi, Emily Artman
Producers: Ms. Covi, Mr. Frimmel (Vento Film)
Austria, 2012, 91 minutes

Screened: Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival 2012 official competition screening, Medeia Monumental 1 (Lisbon), November 13th 2012


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