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Thread: Open Roads: New Italian Cinema At Lincoln Center 2014

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    Open Roads: New Italian Cinema At Lincoln Center 2014

    This is the first time I've attended this series since 2008.

    This is the thread for links to Festival Coverage reviews and space for comments. Reviews begin here.



    Film Society Unveils 13th Open Roads: New Italian Cinema Series Lineup - June 5-12, 2014

    Films, descriptions and schedules follow:

    Opening Night - included in press screenings
    U.S. Premiere
    Those Happy Years (Anni felici)
    Daniele Luchetti, Italy, 2013, DCP, 100m
    Italian with English subtitles

    Luchetti’s warm-hearted, bittersweet autobiographical account of his childhood as a budding filmmaker growing up in Rome in the ’70s stars Kim Rossi Stuart and Micaela Ramazotti as unconventional parents caught up in turbulent times. He’s an avant-garde artist and she’s wrestling with gender roles as she discovers feminism and free love. Luchetti (My Brother Is an Only Child) brilliantly re-creates the atmosphere of urgency and rapid change surrounding the family. He also poignantly conveys his own coming-of-age perspective, that of a boy grappling with radical transformations inside his family and on the street, capturing it all with his brand-new Super-8 camera.
    Thursday, June 5, 1:00pm (Q&A with Daniele Luchetti)
    Thursday, June 5, 6:30pm (Q&A with Daniele Luchetti)


    U.S. Premiere
    The Administrator (L’amministratore)
    Vincenzo Marra, Italy, 2013, 83m
    Italian with English subtitles

    In the lively and absorbing fifth installment in a series of docs celebrating his native Naples, Marra turns a spotlight on the life of Umberto Montella, a building administrator whose job seems to demand skills in management as much as in therapy. An effortless arbiter of the passionate conflicts that arise among tenants, the Quixotic Montella leads us in and out of the homes of his larger-than-life clients, rich and poor Neapolitans whose lives illuminate the city’s volatile moods. Sometimes funny and always poignant, these profoundly human stories flow in and out of one another following a natural rhythm. However specific the tales, characters, and places, the immersion into these entangled lives is also a tough-minded yet affectionate look at an Italy mired in crisis.
    Monday, June 9, 6:30pm
    Tuesday, June 10, 1:30pm


    U.S. Premiere
    The Fifth Wheel (L’ultima ruota del carro)
    Giovanni Veronesi, Italy, 2013, DCP, 113m
    Italian with English subtitles

    Veronesi’s irresistible romantic comedy takes a journey through pivotal events in four decades of recent Italian history, as seen through the lens of Ernesto Fioretti’s unexceptional life. Played with charm and a disarming sense of humor by Elio Germano, Ernesto is a good-hearted, honest middle-class guy who struggles to keep up with changes and is always a step behind. His father disparaged Ernesto by likening him to the “fifth wheel of the wagon,” and his aspirations and involvement through the rise and fall of Socialism and the Berlusconi era are accordingly modest. But his protagonist’s apparent simplicity is precisely one of the strengths of this Tuscan director’s fifteenth feature, which opened the Rome Film Festival last year to great acclaim. Rich in emotions, its ups and downs coinciding with those of the country, Ernesto’s life serves as the perfect platform for abundant laughter and tears.
    Friday, June 6, 6:30pm (Q&A with Giovanni Veronesi)
    Wednesday, June 11, 1:00pm (Q&A with Giovanni Veronesi)


    Happy to Be Different (Felice chi Ŕ diverso)
    Gianni Amelio, Italy, 2014, 93m
    In Italian with English subtitles

    A moving and enlightening work of oral history, Gianni Amelio’s new documentary is a chronicle of gay life in Italy from the fall of Fascism through the early 1980s. Amelio combines interviews with a wide range of older gay Italian men (including Pasolini muse Ninetto Davoli), newsreel footage, and clips from “educational” films warning against homosexuality, and in the process reveals a profound gap between the subjects’ firsthand experiences and the Italian media’s representations of them. The resulting film is a deeply personal account of the advent of gay culture amid the ruins of Mussolini’s Italy and the eternally poignant story of how persecuted individuals developed pragmatic ways to attain everyday happiness.
    Tuesday, June 10, 9:00pm
    Wednesday, June 11, 4:00pm


    U.S. Premiere
    The Human Factor (La variabile umana)
    Bruno Oliviero, Italy, 2013, DCP, 82m
    Italian with English subtitles

    Matters get very complicated for chief inspector Monaco (Silvio Orlando) after the murder of a high-profile member of Milan’s seedy nightlife. He is a widower with a teenage daughter, and, one night, all his neglected personal issues seem to catch up with him, forcing him out of the slump he’s been in since the death of his wife. Rendered darkly beautiful as a noir setting, Milan is the electric backdrop for this detective story that delves as much into the intimate life of one man and his daughter as into this elegant city’s underworlds. In his fiction debut, Olivierio’s extensive documentary experience is palpable in his portrait of Milan—a character in itself—as well as in the vivid and telling details with which he characterize its inhabitants.
    Thursday, June 5, 4:00pm
    Friday, June 6, 9:30pm


    U.S. Premiere
    I Can Quit Whenever I Want (Smetto quando voglio)
    Sydney Sibilia, Italy, 2014, 100m
    Italian with English subtitles

    A band of brilliant unemployed and underemployed academics—two Latinists, a chemist, a neurobiologist, an anthropologist, and an economist—turn to a life of crime in order to survive. Deftly assimilating such influences as Breaking Bad and Trainspotting, this biting parody on the plight of the Italian middle class in the aftermath of the economic crisis boasts a fast pace, witty dialogue, and a terrific cast. A debut to watch from Salerno-native Sibilia, the film was a resounding commercial and critical hit when released in Italy earlier this year.
    Friday, June 6, 3:30pm (Q&A with actress Valeria Solarino)
    Sunday, June 8, 9:00pm (Q&A with actress Valeria Solarino)


    U.S. Premiere
    A Lonely Hero (L'intrepido)

    Gianni Amelio, Italy, 2013, DCP, 104m

    Italian with English Subtitles



    Amelio follows his 2011 Camus adaptation, The First Man, with a deadpan parable about a small everyday hero from Milan who contends with the unemployment crisis in a very particular way: he’s a “professional” substitute worker, skilled and knowledgeable enough to replace anyone in any job. True to his name, Antonio Pane is as good and essential as bread. Whether working as a train conductor, fishmonger, tailor, street sweeper, or bricklayer, he approaches the country’s instability with a deep moral consistency as he reinvents himself everyday. Amelio wrote this film especially for actor Antonio Albanese, who personifies the film’s dark humor and underlying sense of hope. An Emerging Pictures release.
    Monday, June 5, 9:15pm
    Tuesday, June 10, 6:30pm


    U.S. Premiere
    Long Live Freedom (Viva la libertÓ)
    Roberto And˛, Italy, 2013, DCP, 93m
    Italian with English Subtitles

    Enrico Oliveri (a brilliant Toni Servillo) is a seasoned center-left politician and president of the opposition who realizes that the decline of his party is inevitable. As the polls announce he will lose dramatically in the upcoming elections, he falls into a profound existential crisis and disappears. We later learn that he has fled to Paris and is hiding out at the home of his ex-girlfriend Danielle (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). While his colleagues panic, his top aide (Valerio Mastandrea) discovers that Enrico has a twin brother living in a psychiatric institution. What at first seems like a crazy plan soon proves to be their only solution. A scathing critique of Italian political dynamics, And˛’s film is also a pulsating thriller with great comic moments that brings together some of the most talented actors working in Italy today.
    Friday, June 6, 1:00pm (Q&A with Roberto And˛)
    Saturday, June 7, 9:00pm (Q&A with Roberto And˛)


    U.S. Premiere - included in press screenings
    The Mafia Only Kills in Summer (La mafia uccide solo d’estate)
    Pierfrancesco Diliberto, Italy, 2013, DCP, 89m
    Italian with English subtitles

    Pierfrancesco Diliberto (a renowned TV host and political comedian, better known as Pif) wrote, directed, and stars in this subversive, irreverent feature debut about Arturo, a young boy whose obsession with the Mafia’s casual presence in his city surpasses even his passion for Flora, the beautiful schoolmate who remains his main love interest until adulthood. Pif uses Arturo’s unrequited love story as the vehicle to narrate the most tragic events in Italy’s recent history, starting with the Cosa Nostra’s criminal actions in Sicily in the ’70s, which soon spread through the country (encompassing the barbaric murder of judges Falcone and Borsellino, an event that Pif handles with astounding boldness). Winner of the Audience Award at the Torino Film Festival, Mafia is a brave and intelligent dark comedy with a powerful message.
    Saturday, June 7, 3:30pm (Q&A with Pierfrancesco Diliberto aka Pif)
    Thursday, June 12, 4:00pm (Q&A with Pierfrancesco Diliberto aka Pif)


    Quiet Bliss (In grazia di Dio)
    Edoardo Winspeare, Italy, 2014, 127m
    In Italian with English subtitles

    Three generations of women seek refuge in their family’s Salento olive grove after their small textile business collapses in Winspeare’s warm and vibrant drama. Against the backdrop of a radiant southern Italian landscape, Winspeare’s characters—serene Salvatrice (Anna Boccadamo), hardened Adele (Celeste Casciaro), loudmouthed Ina (Laura Licchetta), and aspiring thespian Maria Conchetta (Barbara De Matteis)—revive their lives in the wake of economic catastrophe. Turning to a back-to-basics existence as a means of healing the wounds wrought by the recession, they undergo transformations that the director renders with equal parts pathos, insight, and humor.
    Saturday, June 7, 6:00pm (Q&A with Edoardo Winspeare)
    Monday, June 9, 1:00pm (Q&A with Edoardo Winspeare
    )

    U.S. Premiere
    The Referee (L’arbitro)
    Paolo Zucca, Italy/Argentina, 2013, 96m
    Italian with English subtitles

    Sardinian third-league soccer team Atletico Pabarile is suddenly winning every match of the season, after years of losing consistently to Montecrastu, the team led by cocky and abusive landowner Brai. The return of soccer wizard Matzutzi from a sojourn in Argentina has turned the team of farmers into unexpected champions—and now it feels like anything is possible. Enter Cruciani (a great Stefano Accorsi), a young referee greedily climbing his way to the top, and two cousins playing for Montecrastu who are involved in an escalating conflict about archaic sheep-breeding codes in Sardinia. These disparate plots come together explosively in the lush black-and-white world of Zucca’s slyly funny and utterly distinctive first feature.
    Tuesday, June 10, 4:00pm
    Wednesday, June 11, 9:00pm


    U.S. Premiere--shown in press screenings
    Sacro GRA
    Gianfranco Rosi, Italy/France, 2013, DCP, 93m
    Italian with English subtitles

    The first documentary to win the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival, the latest from Gianfranco Rosi (El Sicario, Room 164 and Below Sea Level), reveals the sheer diversity of life bubbling around the margins of Rome’s Grande Raccordo Anulare, the 43.5-mile highway that encircles the city, the longest in all of Italy. The absorbing and often moving individual portraits that emerge—an ambulance driver caring for his ailing mother, a scientist studying palm trees ravaged by beetles, an eel fisherman nostalgic for old traditions—give visibility and a human face to the places Sacro GRA drivers pass through but never see, while exposing the city’s striking contradictions. Inspired in part by Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities, Rosi’s captivating chorale plunges the viewer into this paradoxical reality, allowing us a more direct, even sensorial experience of life in the shadow of progress.
    Sunday, June 8, 6:30pm Q&A with Gianfranco Rosi)
    Monday, June 9, 4:00pm (Q&A with Gianfranco Rosi)


    U.S. Premiere - included in press screenings
    Small Homeland (Piccola Patria)
    Alessandro Rossetto, Italy, 2013, DCP, 111m
    Italian with English subtitles

    Best friends Luisa and Renata long above all else to leave their stifling provincial town in northeastern Italy, where tensions between locals and immigrants are forever threatening to boil over. They work as maids in a hotel but supplement their income with sexual trysts, sometimes assisted by Luisa’s Albanian boyfriend, and hatch a blackmail scheme that fails to play out as expected. The rhythms of daily life in this border zone—where city meets countryside—are captured in vivid detail in the highly promising fiction debut by Rossetto, an experienced documentarian working mainly with nonprofessional actors.
    Sunday, June 8, 3:30pm (Q&A with Alessandro Rossetto)
    Thursday, June 12, 8:45pm


    U.S. Premiere
    South Is Nothing (Il Sud e niente)
    Fabio Mollo, Italy, 2013, DCP, 86m
    Italian with English subtitles

    Grazia was 12 years old when she was told by her widower father that her beloved older brother Pietro had died, and never spoken a word since. Now a tomboyish 18, after one of her regular arguments with her father, Grazia flees to the seaside and into the water, where she has an otherworldly experience and thinks she sees her brother. Thus begins her quest to discover another truth, not only about her lost sibling but also about herself. This poised and striking debut by the young Mollo, who shot this film in the Reggio Calabria village where he grew up, features a remarkable central performance by the young Miriam Karlkvist.
    Sunday, June 8, 1:00pm
    Monday, June 9, 9:00pm


    U.S. Premiere - included in press screenings
    A Street in Palermo (Via Castellana Bandiera)
    Emma Dante, Italy, 2013, DCP, 92m
    Italian with English subtitles

    Based on her own novel, Emma Dante’s first feature is set in Palermo and shot almost entirely in a narrow alleyway in a run-down neighborhood. On a hot Sunday afternoon, three women are caught in what turns out to be a tragic confrontation. Rosa (Dante) and her partner, Clara (Alba Rohrwacher), have just driven in from Milan and are on their way to a friend’s wedding. As they turn onto Via Castellana Bandiera, they find the Calafiore family jammed into a car driven by Samira (Elena Cotta), a mule-headed Sicilian of Albanian descent. Both drivers stubbornly refuse to back up, as tensions escalate and the neighborhood looks on. An accomplished theater director, Dante includes some knowing nods to spaghetti Westerns and genre conventions in her ambitious film debut, and coaxes formidable performances from her skilled cast (Cotta won the Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival).
    Wednesday, June 11, 6:30pm
    Thursday, June 12, 1:30pm


    U.S. Premiere
    Tir
    Alberto Fasulo, Italy/Croatia, 2013, 83m
    Italian with English Subtitles

    The first Italian film to win the top prize at the Rome Film Festival, Fasulo’s striking fiction debut follows Branko (played by Branko Zavrsan, from the Oscar-winning No Man’s Land), a former teacher from Bosnia who takes a job driving a tractor trailer (“tir”) through Europe. A native of Friuli with a documentary background, Fasulo immerses the viewer in the experience of the trucker on the road—the sounds, the landscape, and the longing for company (Branko’s phone conversations with his wife are particularly poignant). Part of a growing movement of Italian filmmakers exploring hybrid combinations of documentary and fiction, Fasulo uses both professional actors and real truck drivers, and his approach yields both an intimate connection to his characters and an evocative sense of place.
    Saturday, June 7, 1:00pm
    Thursday, June 12, 6:30pm (Q&A with Alberto Fasulo)


    From FSLC press release:

    The Italians are returning to Film Society this June with the 13th edition of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, an annual showcase of contemporary Italian cinema. This year's lineup includes the latest work from established veteran, top award winners, as well as new talent. The U.S. Premiere of Daniele Luchetti's Those Happy Years will open the series June 5. Overall, the lineup includes 16 features, with over a dozen screening Stateside for the first time.

    Those Happy Years is one of several selections that explore the evolution of Italy's political transformation. The film is a coming-of-age autobiographical tale of the director's childhood as a budding filmmaker growing up in Rome in the '70s, coinciding with a radical, transformative period in Italy. The Fifth Wheel by Giovanni Versonesi also falls in this group. It is a humorous tale that takes audiences on a journey of a half-century of pivotal political events through the eyes of actor and screenwriter Ernesto Fioretti.

    Documentaries and hybrid combinations of nonfiction and narrative work factor heavily into this year's roster. Highlights include Gianfranco Rosi’s Sacro GRA, the first documentary to win the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival. The feature explores Rome’s 43.5-mile highway Grande Raccordo Anulare that encircles the city, focusing on areas drivers pass through but never see, revealing a different side of the bustling city’s inhabitants. Alberto Fasulo’s docudrama debut Tir won the top prize at the Rome Film Festival and follows a former teacher from Bosnia who takes a job driving a tractor trailer (“tir”) through Europe. The film uses both professional actors and real truck drivers to create a story about what life is really like on the road.

    Other documentaries include Vincenzo Marra’s Naples-set The Administrator, which looks at a building administrator’s dealings with his larger-than-life tenants, providing a tough-minded yet affectionate portrait of an Italy mired in crisis. Gianni Amelio’s Happy to Be Different, meanwhile, is a moving work of oral history of gay life in Italy from the fall of fascism through the early 1980s.

    Politics and social issues facing Italians also play a role in Gianni Amelio’s A Lonely Hero, starring comedian and actor Antonio Albanese, whose character learns to reinvent and adapt himself to any job as a professional substitute (train conductor, fishmonger, tailor, etc.), as a result of the country’s unstable unemployment crisis. Roberto And˛’s Long Live Freedom is a scathing critique of Italian political dynamics and stars Toni Servillo as a seasoned politician navigating the decline of his party by fleeing to Paris and hiding out at the home of his ex-girlfriend.

    Renowned TV host and political comedian Pierfrancesco Diliberto wrote, directed, and stars in The Mafia Only Kills in Summer, his feature debut about a young boy and his obsession with the Mafia’s presence in his city and a beautiful schoolmate who remains his love interest until adulthood. The love story is set against a backdrop of some of Italy’s most tragic past criminal events. Edoardo Winspeare’s Quiet Bliss follows three generations of women who seek refuge in their family’s olive grove after their small textile business collapses and their efforts to revive their lives in the wake of economic catastrophe and the recession.

    "We are pleased to welcome some familiar faces back to Open Roads—including Daniele Luchetti for Opening Night and Gianni Amelio with his two latest films—and also to introduce so many promising emerging filmmakers," commented Film Society of Lincoln Center Director of Programming Dennis Lim. "This year’s rich and diverse program, which ranges from sober drama to irreverent comedy, includes films from all across Italy, continuing the strong regionalist trend of recent years. With exemplary new work by Gianfranco Rosi and Vincenzo Marra, it also underscores the emergence of documentary as a breeding ground for some of the most exciting developments in contemporary Italian cinema.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-11-2014 at 10:07 PM.

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    Due to travel problems I won't be in New York for the Open Roads press screenings as originally planned. Time will tell if I'm able to view and review some of the series in June during the public screenings.

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    Open Roads: New Italian Cinema

    Coverage of some of the Open Roads 2014 public screenings has begun and will be found starting here. Details will follow.

    Bruno Oliviero: The Human Factor/Il variabile umano (2013)

    A downbeat police procedural about a murder in Milan's seedy nightclub-drug milieu that turns out to involve a police inspector's family. The director previously has made documentaries. He tries to combine noir with a commentary/meditation on the current state of Italy's moral climate, but the combination is mired in gloom and the action has so little momentum the 83-minute run-time feels longish.

    Daniele Luchetti: Those Happy Years/Anni felici (2013) A buoyant loosely autobiographical account of growing up in an artistic, bohemian (but evidently well-off) family in Italy in the Seventies. There is fun and emotion, though this seems less original in its overall outlines than Luchetti's more historically rich 2007 MY BROTHER WAS AN ONLY CHILD. A good cast is highlighted by the charismatic Kim Rossi Stewart as the would-be genius artist dad Guido, with a warm Micaela Ramazzotti as mom Serena, who turns out to be more unconventional than he is. Two cute little boys include an older one who is the budding filmmaker. The series opening night film.

    Gianni Amelio: A Lonely Hero/L'Intrepido (2013)

    Gianni Amelio is a great director (his LAMERICA and THE KEYS TO THE HOUSE, among others, are heart-rending and powerful works), but sometimes he seems to be treading water. This is a meandering fantasy about a man who practices the non-existent job of "il rimpiazzo" or "filling in," taking any job at random every day and working at it for only a few hours. Amelio means to provide a meditation on the value of work, or having a job, and the pain of unemployment, but the film seems to make itself up as it goes along, varying wildly in tone. Partly it's clear this was meant by Amelio as a vehicle for the soulful, appealing actor Antonio Albanese, but one winds up wondering: what was he thinking?
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-07-2014 at 11:30 PM.

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    Open Roads: New Italian Cinema

    Click on the titles below for the Festival Coverage Filmleaf reviews of each film.

    Roberto And˛: Long Live Freedom/Viva la libertÓ (2013)

    The Italian opposition party leader goes into hiding in Paris and is replaced by his mentally unhinged twin brother, a philosophy prof who's been in a mental institution. The new version is a great success. Both are played by the great Toni Servillo of GOMORRAH, IL DIVO, and THE GREAT BEAUTY, and if this fantasy-satire doesn't live up to all its possibilities, Servillo is always fun to watch in action.

    Sydney Sibilia: I Can Quit Whenever I Want/Smetto quando voglio (2014)

    A group of seven university specialists who can't find good jobs manufacture and sell a drug like Ecstasy in dance clubs in this loud, colorful, profane social comedy from a first-time director wildly enamored of American movies and TV series like "Breaking Bad." A big success in Italy, but it makes you miss the great Italian comedies of the late Fifties into the Seventies, like BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET.

    Giovanni Veronsi: The Fifth Wheel/L'ultima ruota del carro (2013)

    A genial and appealing if unremarkable life story about a Roman everyman born in the Sixties and living on through Berlusconi.

    Alberto Fasulo: Tir (2013)

    This docudrama depicts the plight of Eastern European big rig drivers in western Europe who settle for a kind of servitude far from their homes and families and original jobs in exchange for making three or four times as much as they could at home. The director, with his first feature, did years of research, and his main actor, a well-known Croatian star, got a trucker's license and was hired by the shipping company before enacting his role for the four-month shoot. The authenticity and significent socio-economic message of the resulting film, which tends to capture the boredom of the long haul a little too well, nonetheless won Fasulo the top prize at the Rome Film Festival in November 2013.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-09-2014 at 05:16 PM.

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    Open Roads: New Italian Cinema

    Edoardo Winspeare: Quiet Bliss/In grazia di Dio (2013)

    A drama about a family that gets into legal and economic problems when their small clothing factory fails. Two men go to jail for a dumb money-making venture and four women, who are often at odds, to put it mildly, move out to a small farm with an olive grove overlooking the sea. This all happens in the stark, sun-drenched Salento region in the area of Lecce, Publia, where the director grew up, at the tip of the heel of the "boot" of Italy within sight of the Greek coast, and it was shot with non-actors, including Winspeare's wife and stepdaughter in the two main roles, and using ecological methods. All that is more interesting than the turbulent but center-less and only intermittently involving action, marred by an unappealing protagonist who overwhelms the other characters. Debut at the Berlinasle this year and praise in Italy don't add up to much international potential.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-10-2014 at 08:49 AM.

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    Two final reviews are coming, of A STREET IN PALERMO and THE MAFIA ONLY KILLS IN SUMMER, both set in Sicily.

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    Open Roads: New Italian Cinema

    Emma Dante: A Street in Palermo/Via Castellana Bandiera (2013)

    A standoff in a little street in the named Sicilian capital between two women whose cars face each other. Neither will back up. On one side, a lesbian couple. On the other, a local family whose boss may want his Albanian mother-in-law to stand her ground so he can take bets on who will give in first. It's funny, specific to the region, and perhaps a metaphor for a blocked country. But it can also be pretty tedious, and the whole business seems inexplicable. Based on Emma Dante's own novel. This is her first film. She is a well-known theater director and she also plays one of the lesbians, the driver.
    Pierfrancesco Filiberto/Pif: The Mafia Only Kills in Summer/La Mafia uccide solo d'estate (2013)

    On the surface a charming coming of age rom-com, set also in Palermo, but underneath a statement against the way the city is dominated by Mafia violence. Arturo, the young protagonist, comes in contact, Forest Gump-like, with a series of anti-Mob leaders who one by one are assassinated. When the action jumps to adult Arturo, indifferently played by the director, it degenerates somewhat into episodic TV comedy stuff, though the underlying message and some of the initial charm remain.

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