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This indescribably tripped-out concoction is an unholy mess, but it’s also arrestingly weird.  The skilled Italian filmmaker Gabrielle Salvatores (I’M NOT SCARED) directs in EXTREMELY slick fashion, but can’t seem to make sense of the story…if there even is one! 

The Package 
     If I didn’t already know better I’d surmise that this sleek and stylish film, with its crisp visuals and determinedly hip sensibility, was a product of the new wave of Spanish horror thrillers bequeathed by the likes of OPEN YOUR EYES, THE NAMELESS & the bizarre FAUSTO 5.0 (which DENTI often closely resembles).  In fact, DENTI (a.k.a. TEETH; 2000) is from Italy, which may hopefully be on the cusp of a genre renaissance of its own…although it definitely hasn’t occurred yet.  Director Gabrielle Salvatores is best known in the Western world for MEDITERRANEO (1991), AMNESIA (2002) and the stunning I’M NOT SCARED (2003).  DENTI is nearly as potent as the above films, but has yet to secure a US release (definitely a recurring theme in my reviews).  My advice for adventurous cinephiles?  Track down an import copy—you’ll be glad you did.

The Story
     Antonio was born with a set of abnormally large incisors, which made him an outcast as a child and continue to bother him as an adult.  No, he’s not a vampire, but his teeth seem to have strange powers: when touched, they trigger buried memories and hallucinations, most of them involving Antonio’s beloved mother, who died when he was twelve.  An attractive and vivacious woman he always remembers wearing a red dress, she seems to represent all that was good in his life…as well as quite a few unresolved oedipal issues!  Also appearing in Antonio’s fantasies are his distant father and little sister, a lizard girl who can walk in and out of mirrors(!), and a childhood dentist who went mad and chopped up his wife.
     Estranged from his spouse, Antonio lives with his pretty young girlfriend, with whom he shares an unhealthy bond.  He’s convinced she’s cheating on him with a dentist, a suspicion he confronts her with one day and starts a fight during which she chips one of his teeth with an ashtray.  He sees a succession of dentists, of varying degrees of competence, none of whom are able to fix his teeth.  At one point Antonio takes his young daughter along on one of his dental visits, as she seems to have teeth as abnormally large as his own; he whisks her away, however, after she witnesses her father’s front teeth brutally ripped from their diseased gums.  After experiencing a plethora of hallucinations that nearly overtake his life completely, Antonio is made aware that there’s another set of teeth waiting to move in behind those he has now.  All he has to do is wait…mending his relationships with his ex-wife, girlfriend and children, however, won’t be nearly as easy! 

The Direction 
     Visually, this film satisfies on every conceivable level, from the kinetic camerawork to the bold color scheme…even if it does often look more like a TV commercial than a feature film.  Gabrielle Salvatores’ music video influenced editing and the pulsing techno score keep the film moving, never allowing things to grow boring.  Also worth mentioning are the transitions, which are imaginative and, given the druggy thrust of the narrative, appropriately hallucinatory—perhaps a bit too much so. 
     The same can be said for the movie overall, which is so overloaded with whacked out flashbacks and fantasies that by the time the most startling sequence comes into play—a climactic bit featuring the protagonist literally diving into a glass of booze and dancing a tango with his father at the bottom—it barely registers.  And dental-phobic viewers should beware: there are more nauseating close-ups of teeth drilled and gums scraped than in any other film I can recall.  For those who can take it, however, DENTI is quite a unique entertainment.  If nothing else, Salvatores certainly deserves credit for attempting something this uncompromisingly out there

Vital Statistics

Cecchi Gori Group Tiger Cinematographica 

Director: Gabriele Salvatores
Producers: Vittorio Cecchi Gori, Maurizio Totti
Screenplay: Gabriele Salvatores
(Based on a novel by Domenico Starnone)
Cinematography: Italo Petriccione
Editing: Massimo Fiocchi
Cast: Sergio Rubini, Anouk Grinberg, Tom Novembre, Anita Caprioli, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Paolo Villaggio, Claudio Ammendola, Angelica Russo, Franco Trevisi

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