Tre Lire - Primo Giorno
"Tre Lire - Primo Giorno" is a film the European pastoral tradition in which story is subservient to character. In this case, we have the tale of a trio of male nurses rambling around the Italian countryside with an old man in tow, ostensibly to find a rare stamp that's worth a fortune. But their real purpose, and that of this film, is the sheer joy of wandering around and bumping into interesting people.
I found myself getting impatient with the movie, but many others might enjoy such a ride. The circuitous plot serves little purpose other than to introduce one new quirky character after another.
The three nurses, along with a mopey fourth one, work the night shift at an Italian hospital. None are very interested in working, preferring to hang out in the break room playing cards. They forget about an old man in a coma on a gurney, who's supposed to be picked up in the morning. But the patient wakes up on his own, stumbles upon the nurses and tells them of a three-lire stamp from 1860 that's hidden in a public square in a faraway town. He offers to show them where it is in exchange for giving him a lavish funeral.
They steal the hospital's broken-down old ambulance and take off, leaving their mopey partner to face the wrath of the head nurse in the morning. It turns out she has a soft spot, despite her intimidating persona, and takes off in her own car in search of the wayward band, with the other nurse coming along.
Two of the nurses are brothers, who have just been evicted from their apartment and have been saving up for some kind of journey together. The other one is the leader, a brash ladies' man who is impatient to find the stamp. The old man, though, keeps insisting on making stops in all sorts of unlikely places.
First there's a brothel with a boisterous madam and a mysterious Chinese lady who seems to know the old man. Later, they bump (literally) into a blonde cyclist who comes along for the ride. There's also a visit to the skeletal remains of a carnival where the old man used to work, a rustic town and a farm where a former archaeologist now makes wine for a living.
Director Andrea Pellizzer paints a lovely picture of rural Italy, and no doubt experienced travelers will find the trip enjoyable. A hopeless American when it comes to storytelling, I prefer my movies with a little more of a point to them. A vagabond spirit is a great thing for a poet; not so much for a filmmaker.