Moon Shadow (Colpo di Luna) is a gentle, old-fashioned drama about a jaded scientist who returns to his Sicilian village, where he learns the virtues of generosity and simplicity in the midst of the mentally ill. Written and directed by Alberto Simone, this 1995 feature recalls all those nice festival films that are so vulnerable in the real world. In fact, the film made the festival rounds prior to this curious leap into a U.S. commercial run.

Tcheky Karyo co-stars as Lorenzo, a Milan scientist who falls on hard times. Just as he has returned to his small village to reclaim and sell the dilapidated family house he has inherited, he learns that his research funding has dried up. A romance back on the mainland has also eluded him. When he befriends the elderly Salvatore (Nino Manfredi) to help him find workers to repair the house, Lorenzo is drawn into a circle of the mentally ill and the selfless teachers and administrators who help them in the village's progressive haven for the handicapped.

Lorenzo's despair grows as his work and love life sink into shambles, but he becomes more and more involved with the school and its staff, most notably with Titto (Johan Leyson), the school's director. Lorenzo also bonds with Salvatore, especially after he learns that Salvatore's son is one of the mentally ill. Lorenzo is also attracted to Luisa (Isabelle Pasco), an attractive but handicapped student with a gift as a pianist. It becomes Lorenzo's mission to teach Luisa enough so that she can triumph at the big school party that is also the film's denouement.

Beyond its palpable agitprop leanings in favor of more tolerant and progressive treatment and tolerance of the mentally ill, Moon Shadow delivers other messages: The simple life is also the good life; creativity and communing with nature are therapeutic, and generosity nourishes the spirit.

The quality of the screening print, perhaps different from copies in circulation, was sub-par, with a lot of scratches and some faded portions inspiring thoughts of a quick rollout of digital presentation. On the plus side, Karyo and Manfredi's performances are endearing, as is the evocation of village life and the filmmaker's underlying purpose to do good in a world growing more cynical and materialistic.

--Doris Toumarkine