Right after today’s screening of Terrence Malick‘s A Hidden Life broke around 4 pm, I ran over to the Gray d’Albion for a showing of Luca Guadagnino‘s The Staggering Girl, a 37-minute short.

I’d heard it was smoothly made and roundly applauded, but I had a special motive in wanting to catch it. I was very upset by Guadagnino’s Suspiria, you see, and I was hoping that A Staggering Girl would flush that memory out of my head, Luca-wise. It managed to do that and then some.

It’s bothered some critics that Girl, a Directors’ Fortnight selection that was shot in Manhattan and Rome, has been financed by Valentino and is, in fact, a kind of upmarket commercial (i.e., “branded content”) for the fashion line. I chose to ignore this (so what?) and simply concentrate on the acting (from Julianne Moore, Mia Goth, KiKi Layne, Kyle MacLachlan, Marthe Keller and Alba Rohrwacher), the script by Michael Metnick and of course Luca’s assured direction.

It’s basically about an Italian-American writer named Francesca (Moore) who’s struggling with a memoir, and her relationship with her white-haired, Rome-residing mother (Keller) who’s begun losing her mind.

I didn’t check the cast before watching it, but was surprised to discover that Moore’s blustery, German-accented mom was Keller — I recognized the voice but not the face and certainly not the hair.

Story or theme-wise there’s not a lot to feast upon (apart from the beautiful gowns and pant suits, I mean). It’s mostly about Moore trying to persuade mom to come back to New York with her because she’s getting too old to look after herself, and Keller protesting that “this is my home!”

But settling into the vibe and mood of The Staggering Girl bestowed feelings of comfort, especially the portions that were shot in Rome. I worship the magic-hour light in that town.

Hat tip to dp Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (who shot Call Me By Your Name), editor Walter Fasano and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.

There’s a great dream-dance sequence at the very end (several Valentino-clad women undulating to Sakamoto’s jazz) that works in terms of putting a cap on things.

I don’t see why I have to write three of four paragraphs justifying my enjoyment of The Staggering Girl. I love films that radiate a certain “the director knew exactly what he/she was doing” atmosphere, and this one has it in spades.