Tizza Covi and Rainer FrimmelAustria / Italy90 minutes2016ColourItalian
After a superstitious lion tamer loses his good-luck charm, he sets out on a magical, picaresque odyssey across Italy to find "Mister Universo," the former circus strongman who gifted it to him.
Mister Universo, the latest film from directing duo Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel, is a delightful journey into the heart of Italy's outsider circus communities.
Young Tairo, a lion tamer with a big smile and a big heart, lives happily among the circus caravans alongside his acrobat girlfriend (Wendy Weber) and the rest of their tight-knit community. Hardworking Tairo's burly exterior hides a sensitive core; he's a genuinely gentle man with a superstitious streak. When his iron horseshoe lucky charm goes missing, Tairo is unable to perform his pre-show ritual and consequently can no longer do his act in front of a crowd. Recalling that the talisman was given to him in childhood by Arthur "Mister Universo" Robin, Tairo embarks on a quest to find the famous circus strongman and retrieve a copy of the beatified horseshoe.
The documentaries that Covi and Frimmel have co-directed are distinguished by the purity and kindness of their sensibility, and here the filmmakers bring the same approach to the non-actors who make up Mister Universo's cast. Reprising their relationships with the salt-of-the-earth circus communities living in Italy's countryside, Covi and Frimmel continue the social portraiture of their earlier films Babooska and La Pivellina. Working at the threshold of fiction and documentary, this picaresque odyssey inhabits the magical cinematic world where the imagination meets reality, offering us a tender and uplifting coming-of-age story in which providence and compassion are the ties that bind life's pragmatic side to myth.