Joey Skee (February 28, 2009)
Giuseppe Gagliardi’s film La vera leggenda di Tony Vilar is a musical journey tracing the circuitous routes of the Italian diaspora.

 The Italians have discovered us!

Adding to this exhilarating, cultural mix is Giuseppe Gagliardi’s film La vera leggenda di Tony Vilar (2006), which I finally had the opportunity to see this past week (grazie Teresa Fiore). This self-proclaimed mockumentary follows Peppe (singer, composer, and co-screenwriter Peppe Voltarelli) in his search for Argentine teen idol Tony Vilar, an Italian emigrant who left Calabria after World War II as Antonio Ragusa. There are encounters with Vilar’s real-life relatives and friends, and Italian actors playing Italian Americans, as the film takes us on a journey from Italy to Buenos Aires to New York City, with excursions to suburban Connecticut and New Jersey, in search of the elusive singer.

Along the way we are made to question the narrative’s veracity – fact or fiction? lost legend or hip, pomo screenplay? – compelling the viewer to search the Net to relieve the nagging uncertainty. This ambiguity is attributed, in part, to seeing Bronx denizens and “friends of friends” joining in the hilarity of dance routines and a musical dream sequence. In the end, we are left to heed D.H. Lawrence’s advice: “Never trust the teller; trust the tale.”

The tale, in this case, is a joyous, musical romp of popular culture tracing one route of post-World II Italian emigration – Mezzogiorno/Latin America/the States – that acquires layers of cultural resonance along the way. The truth/la verità/la verdad of the narrative is that Italians are discovering the accents, the hybridic variety, and the unique richness of Italian ethnoscapes like La Boca and Melrose Park to claim them as their own, as they redefine what it means to be “Italian.”





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