by Carole Di Tosti
Ode to Passion, is a movie musical of sophistication, heat and light. The film, though a musical, is actually a genre hybrid, a drama which begins and ends with the protagonist’s poetic lament. Indeed, the film is a cautionary tale about the excesses of passion and misguided perceptions we have of love which can only be learned through profound moments of suffering.
Written, produced and directed by the talented Jack Danini who also wrote the lyrics, music and dialogue which is in rhyming couplets, the love story of a writer and an actress seems typical. However, the versification adds a unique coherence that heightens the characterizations and makes them unique. I found myself anticipating the rhymes then being surprised at the twists of phrase which always strengthened the concepts and themes of the film.
With this work, Danini proves himself to be a veritable Renaissance Man, whose passion for rhyme and rhythm, love’s heartbreak and New York City nights of beauty spins gold in this Broadway-styled pop musical that is cinematically on point and lustrous. The film debuts on Amazon Prime video on the 10th of July and shouldn’t be missed if you are up for 18 original rock/pop tunes and a well-integrated story that has echoes of Shakespeare but is far too modern not to identify with.
More specifically, Danini’s film is an ode to love’s heartbreak, New York City and what fuels the creative drive of the artist. Writer Michael Fiorelli (played by the exquisite voiced and fine actor Giuseppe Bausilio) and the women he meets and whose addiction breaks his heart, actress Sarah Andrews (Bausilio’s matched equal Julia Nightingale) attempt to make their New York dreams come true. Their relationship burgeons, though there are dark clouds on the horizon. Sarah infers that her previous relationships have ended unsatisfactorily. More importantly, she implies she has an obsessive compulsive personality susceptible to addictions.
Escaping through addiction is a trait of Sarah’s character. Whatever the substance might be handy at the moment, she indulges. And like all abusers who “get out of hand,” she attempts to stop to no avail, eventually seeking the “road well-traveled.”
Michael overlooks the import of her nature, believing unwisely that his love has the power to change her. Despite advice from Father Conor (Al Pagaono) and his friends John G. Leroux (Jeff Smith) and Richy Sanders (Marcus Harmon) Michael becomes deeply involved with Sarah. He believes their love is mutual and lifelong. Danini’s love songs and the characters’ verse dialogue sweetly and exuberantly delivered by Bausilio and Nightingale catch up the viewer in the moment. We understand that the first flush of love is an exhilaration that can be an addiction as well. Is this what both Michael and Sarah experience?
Indeed, as with all addictions, there is a point of no return and there is a point of tiresome, boring regularity and sameness which dulls. Michael and Sarah suffer both. However, Michael is more invested and Sarah’s is a cynic. She must be able to come to the end of herself and her obsessive personality which her actress friend Alexa Lynn (Victoria Meade) encourages. Unlike friend John and his girlfriend Kate (Kaylor Otwell), Sarah and Michael struggle to sustain their love.
Bausilio (Billy Elliot, Cats, Hamilton) and Nightingale (The Ferryman) boast powerful convincing performances as the lovers who attempt to find their way and lose themselves in each other until Sarah determines she is not willing to give up her previous wild-child lifestyle. For the sensitive Michael, this is a mortal blow. Only after his talk with Father Conor and his prayer to God in a song (which Bausilio sings magnificently) is Michael eventually able to find a resolution. The resolution is the Ode to Passion which Michael has written and recites to begin and conclude the film.
The musical film/drama is the story of his cataclysmic love with Sarah that has changed him forever, like the speaker in the John Donne poem “The Broken Heart.” He is wiser, but he can never love the same way again.
Kudos to all of the actors who give superb performances. I particularly liked the cinematography (360 degree shots of Michael and Sarah in their first big love number) and the choral when all the characters sing, but the settings are different. Finally, hats off to the prodigious and sterling efforts of Jack Danini in this first feature film which will be shown on 10th July on Amazon Prime video.
For more information on the film go to: https://odetopassionmovie.com