Wednesday, May 31st, 2023

An Italian looking for what northerners used to look for in Italy

SteamSteam: The Turkish Bath

Written and Directed by Ferzan Ozpetek

Released May 9, 1997 in Italy
Drama (foreign)
94 min.


Review by Stephen O. Murray


The 1997 Turkish-Italian Steam: The Turkish Bath (Hamam, the first directed by Turkish-born Italian Ferzan Ozpetek of Loose Cannons) is not a great film, but it is an enjoyable one, focused on the floundering of a marriage and finding happiness in male arms.

HamamAlessandro Gassman joins my list of young actors with furrowed brows that will soon be wrinkles. His tall, very pale, un-Nautilesed body seems perfect for modeling Italian suits but doesn’t look bad in a towel either. Scion of an acting dynasty, he is not a model but an actor, and a good one. He conveys both the yuppie alienation and throwing himself into a family project (both his adopted Turkish family’s and the aunt who earlier settled in Istanbul and owned a hamam—she is heard but, unlike Heat and Dust not seen; the budget was minimal). Not a lot of tourist vistas, but the food spreads made me long to return to Turkey.

As with Gods and Monsters, I am able to rationalize that Francesco dies for reasons other than homosexuality (capitalist greed herein), though “The faggot must die” remains a mandate I suspect.

Steam2Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the film is that an Italian is portrayed as needing to go elsewhere to find familial warmth, a focus on food, and less materialism. Italy used to serve as a site for alienated Northern Europeans and North Americans to find poor but warm and sensuous life, now Italians (at least Romans?) are taking the other (neocolonial) role.

originally published by AssociatedContent (later bought and obliterated by Yahoo)
©1998, 2017, Stephen O. Murray


About The Author

Stephen O. Murray grew up in rural southern Minnesota, earned a B.A. from James Madison College (within Michigan State University), an M.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (both in sociology), and was a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley (in anthropology). He is the author of American Gay, Homosexualities, etc. and lives in San Francisco.