No great city signifies just one thing, least of all a multimillennial melting pot like Naples, southern Italy’s cradle of fine architecture, world-beating pizza and organised crime. But to watch actor John Turturro’s Passione, a thorough and thoroughly enjoyable documentary about Neapolitan folk music, you might have to give the city the edge on tuneful contributions to world culture. From these narrow streets came opera giant Enrico Caruso, as well as the first six-string guitar and hundreds of years of passionate balladeering.
Turturro, narrating onscreen with a winning exuberance, suggests songcraft is in the local blood. His survey is far from academic, choosing instead to showcase more than a dozen performances à la Buena Vista Social Club. If you’re even slightly interested in folk music, there’s something for you: the Arabic trip-hop stylings of monomonikered rapper-singer Raiz, raspy Pietra Montecorvino’s Stevie Nicks-like dance tunes, a gorgeous sax solo from local jazz legend James Senese. Though the selections often embrace melodrama in a garlic-scented bear hug, none are redundant, resulting in a killer soundtrack.