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Originally published Friday, May 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

Sibling opposites loom large in "My Brother is an Only Child"

Sibling alienation looms large in the screenplays of Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli. Indeed, the cheeky title of their latest collaboration...

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

"My Brother Is an Only Child," with Riccardo Scamarcio, Elio Germano, Vittorio Emanuele Propizio, Diane Fleri. Directed by Daniele Luchetti, from a screenplay by Luchetti, Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli, based on a novel by Antonio Pennacchi. 108 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (includes profanity, sex scenes). In Italian with English subtitles.

The movie begins in 1962 near Rome, where Manrico stirs up factory workers and Accio fails to suppress his hormones at a seminary. As the 1970s approach and Manrico begins to act out his beliefs, their seemingly aimless lives establish a more threatening pattern. But there's room for some frivolity, especially during the performance of a wonderfully ridiculous socialist rewrite of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."

The director, Daniele Luchetti, who also worked on the script, doesn't try for the six-hour-long heft of "The Best of Youth" (which was originally released as a miniseries in Italy). He's more interested in telling a slighter story that has its own distinctive dreaminess.

That it clicks is largely due to the daredevil chemistry of the actors playing the brothers, who can be a handful whenever they're together. Propizio and Germano are especially fearless in suggesting Accio's callowness, while Scamarcio meticulously hints at Manrico's scarier nature.

Luchetti makes frequent visual references to the experimental nature of 1960s Italian movies dominated by youth and politics ("Before the Revolution," "China Is Near"); he can't resist their go-for-broke qualities. The movie builds to a showy final handheld shot that is likely to strike you as either insipid or inspired.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

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