Published Jul 01, 2003First-time feature director Stambrini refers to her film, which translates less poetically to "Gas," as a "static road movie," but it's more like a road movie that keeps going around in circles. Most of the action does take place in one location: a suburban Italian petrol station and coffee bar where the heroine of the story, a sullen Sarah Polley-type nicknamed Lenni (Regina Orioli), works with her lover, a tough-cookie lesbian named Stella (Maya Sansa, the "Louise" in this dialectic). But the girls do at least try to get out of town.
It's easy to tell who's the dom in Stella and Lenni's relationship: Stella gets to wear the heavy belt with all the keys. She also sports badass black cowboy boots, which she has a penchant for setting on fire when it's slow at the pumps. When Lenni's pampered, bourgeois mother shows up in her own badass pink and white stilettos, railing at her daughter for cutting her out of her life, Stella immediately jumps to her girlfriend's defence and accidentally kills her mother in the process. The rest of the film becomes a quest to get rid of the body and leave their old lives behind, but the women are decidedly hampered by a hatchback full of club-going lunatics and her dead mother's voice chastising Lenni from beyond the grave.
Stambrini is best known for her "militant" gay short films, but there's little militancy apparent in Benzina; there's no real lambasting of society for its lack of acceptance of a girl-girl relationship. Lenni's mother seems more concerned with her daughter's lack of communication than her sloppy lip locks with a butch female. The movie has a self-conscious David Lynch twang (with an unfortunate lack of Lynch visual beauty) and is more psychosexual than socio-political as a result. Yes, it's derivative a naked riff on everything from Heavenly Creatures to Blood Simple to Thelma and Louise but it's also surprisingly authentic and naive in its love story, which is the only explanation for Stambrini's naiveté when she answers to some men being "upset" by the female love scenes. "Perhaps they feel left out," she says. She's probably right. What straight guy wouldn't want to be a lesbian for a day? (Mongrel Media)