Jun 5, 2002 at 12:00 am

This is a locally made documentary about a local character named Silvio, a pizza maker based in Redford. He spends his spare time kneading wet cement and making “primitive” sculptures which have an Italian history theme and whose chunky bluntness give them a weird touch of the Aztec. The walls of Silvio’s pizzeria are a clutter of pictures and clippings of popes and pinups, while his nearby workspace is jammed with comically faced figures and huge architectural reconstructions. The impression is of someone manically committed to making his mark, to the joys of creating and the sensual pleasure of sinking his hands into something soft, warm and yielding.

Shaping the cement is enjoyable “almost to the point of sexy,” he says with untypical understatement. As befitting a “character,” Silvio’s personality seems equal parts charm and affront, bonhomie and bombast. His pizzas, cut into asymmetric and overlapping pieces before being shunted into their bags, look good — but you might think twice before going into a shop whose owner, bursting with song, has a tendency to launch into an out-of-tune bellow.

Silvio is good documentary material and the only problem with this one, directed by Matt Cantu, is that it’s too short. Clocking in at almost exactly 30 minutes, it seems like a sketch for a longer work. Silvio and his shop (and customers) and Silvio and his feelings about his art are given a decent amount of attention, though the art itself is more glimpsed than seen. But once the setting moves to Italy and a trip home by the artist-baker, everything just rushes by.

We learn, belatedly, of Silvio’s early concentration camp interment and subsequent dire poverty, but just as the story begins to deepen, it’s over. It’s not the filmmakers’ fault; raising money for this kind of project is always hard and, given their budgetary limitations, they’ve done a decent job. They’ve managed to suggest that there’s an interesting story here, even if they haven’t quite given it to us.

Showing exclusively at the Cranbrook Art Museum Auditorium (39221 N. Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills), Friday, June 7, at 8 and 9 p.m. Tickets, $10, include an afterglow at 9:15 p.m. Call 248-542-8935.

Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].