"The Mouth of the Wolf," which screens at the Milwaukee LGBT Film and Video Festival at UWM at 1 p.m. on Oct. 23, is an unusual film.
Funded by a Jesuit foundation, it’s about a petty criminal and his transgender lover.
The film’s name comes from Italian slang for "good luck." The sarcasm is obvious: Who wants to be in the mouth of a wolf? The slang is used to wish luck to someone headed directly into life’s difficulties.
True to its slang title, the film encompasses a number of challenges. Not just those of Enzo, newly released from prison, and Mary, his lover. But also of the city of Genoa itself. Scenes of Enzo’s journey home from prison mingle with archival film footage of Genoa and snapshots of its current malaise.
The back-and-forth images create the visual equivalent of a poetic rhyme. It may be compared to a terza rima, the triplet rhyming structure invented by Dante.
This poetic structure makes the film unique in the offerings of the Milwaukee LGBT Film and Video Festival. "It is not a conventional documentary nor is it a conventional or typical LGBT film, though it has this couple at its center," festival director Carl Bogner explains. "I wanted to showcase it for that reason – to show what different forms LGBT film can take, and that genuine feeling can come from such forms."
The effect of the visual terza rima overwhelms: First in the poignancy of the love letters between Enzo and Mary, read with scenes of Enzo on the road or scenes of life in Genoa. Then in the reoccurring images of exuberance and destruction in Genoa, all powerfully underscored by music. And lastly in the final scene of Enzo and Mary talking about their relationship, surrounded by their brood of dogs, beautiful in all the broken edges of their lives, two wounded people who have found tremendous love in each other.
Many images of the relationship between Enzo and Mary are memorable. During their time in prison, Enzo convinced the guards to move him to a cell across the hall from Mary. He taught her sign language so they could communicate across the divide. What a powerful desire to find some sense of intimacy amid the degradations of jail.
One wonders why a Jesuit foundation funded this project. Part of the answer lies in the purpose of the foundation to call attention to the situation of the poor in Genoa. A much larger answer lies, I suspect, with the direction of Jesuit spirituality.
The founder of the Jesuits taught his followers to "find God in all things." Jesuit spirituality takes this motto to heart, cultivating an awareness of what happens in the daily world around us so that one can discern where God may be leading us.
With that lens, the visual poem becomes a call to find God or beauty or joy in the troubled, difficult, fragile world of Genoa’s poor, and in particular in the jagged lives of Enzo and Mary.