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Thread: Open Roads: New Italian Cinema at Lincoln Center 2018

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    Pure Hearts/Cuori puri

    Open Roads: New Italian Cinema schedule

    Thursday, May 31, 1:00 pm, Sicilian Ghost Story
    Thursday, May 31, 3:30pm, The Place
    Thursday, May 31, 6:00pm, Sicilian Ghost Story, Q&A with Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza
    Thursday, May 31, 9:00pm, The Place, Q&A with Paolo Genovese
    Friday, June 1, 2:00pm, A Private Affair / Una questione privata
    Friday, June 1, 4:00pm, Diva!, Francesco Q&A with Patierno
    Friday, June 1, 6:15pm, Fortunata, Q&A with Jasmine Trinca
    Friday, June 1, 8:45pm, Pure Hearts / Cuori puri, Q&A with Roberto De Paolis
    Saturday, June 2, 1:00pm, Crater / Il cratere, Q&A with Silvia Luzi & Luca Bellino
    Saturday, June 2, 3:30pm, Nome di donna, Q&A with Marco Tullio Giordana
    Saturday, June 2, 6:00pm, Stories of Love That Cannot Belong to This World / Amori che non sanno stare al mondo, Q&A with Lucia Mascino
    Saturday, June 2, 8:30pm, Naples in Veils / Napoli velata, Q&A with Ferzan Ozpetek
    Sunday, June 3, 1:00pm, Equilibrium / L'equilibrio, V Q&A with Vincenzo Marra
    Sunday, June 3, 3:30pm, Boys Cry / La terra dell'abbastanza, Q&A with Damiano & Fabio D'Innocenzo
    Sunday, June 3, 8:30pm, Look Up / Guarda in alto
    Sunday, June 3, 6:00pm, Beautiful Things , Q&A with Giorgio Ferrero
    Monday, June 4, 2:00pm, Lucky / Fortunata
    Monday, June 4, 4:15pm, Crater / Il cratere
    Monday, June 4, 6:30pm, A Private Affair / Una questione privata
    Monday, June 4, 8:45pm, The Night of the Shooting Stars / La Notte di San Lorenzo
    Tuesday, June 5, 2:30pm, Boys Cry / La terra dell'abbastanza
    Tuesday, June 5, 4:30pm, Nome di donna
    Tuesday, June 5, 6:30pm, Dangerous but Necessary / La lucida follia di Marco Ferreri
    Tuesday, June 5, 8:45pm, The Ape Woman / La donna scimmia
    Wednesday, June 6, 2:00pm, Pure Hearts / Cuori puri
    Wednesday, June 6, 4:30pm, Equilibrium / L'equilibrio
    Wednesday, June 6, 6:30pm, Stories of Love That Cannot Belong to This World / Amori che non sanno stare al mondo
    Wednesday, June 6, 8:30pm, Diva!
    This year's Lincoln Center Italian series, jointly organized by the Film Sociey of Lincoln Center and Itstituto Cineluce, its 18th edition (and my fifth), is another elegant and varied collection. It includes some homages to Italian cinematic greats, the actress Valentina Cortese, filmmaker Marco Ferreri, and the iconic Taviani brothers, Paolo and his late brother Vittorio.

    Here are my preview-summaries. I expect to see most of the films and will report on them in more detail later. Already I have been devastated in advance by Boys Cry, mesmerized and turned on by Naples in Veils, horrified and then reassured by the #Me Too-Italian style courtroom drama Nome di Donna, and puzzled and thought-provoked by The Place. There will also be films by Marco Ferreri and the Taviani brothers.

    BEAUTIFUL THINGS by Giorgio Ferrero
    The title, I assure you, is ironic. This is a film about consumerism. (Venice 2017.) A rather high-toned and intentionally off-putting documentary composed in four parts, with good music and images. It focuses on four men in different worlds and connects them abstractly.

    BOYS CRY by Damiano D'Innocenzo, Fabio D'Innocenzo
    Twin brothers wrote and directed this film about two best friends still in high school who get drawn into the Italian underground by accident. A "muscular first feature," Boyd van Hoeij said, "A knockout." Well received at the Berlinale, a post-Gomorrah piece on what Jay Weissberg thought an overdone subject of amoral youths. Both have a point. It's stylishly shot, fresh, beautifully acted. These young Italian toughs' criminal lives fill Hobbes' definition: "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

    CRATER by Silvia Luzi, Luca Bellino
    About a fairgrounds huckster who grooms his daughter to become a pop diva. Won the Special Jury Prize at Tokyo 2017. By former documentarians and based on fact.

    DIVA! by Francesco Patierno
    An inventive bio-doc about Italian star Valentina Cortese, Oscar-nominated for her turn in Truffaut's Day for Night, has different actresses play segments of her life, as in Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan film, I'm Not There. Van Hoeij (again) calls it "inventive."

    EQUILIBRIUM by Vincenzo Marra

    The director's fourth feature follows a priest who returns to his native Campania and gets into a conflict with the Camorra over their waste exploitation, premiered at Venice in its "Days" series. Another documentarian driven to fiction. Shot modestly with non-actors like his successful Land Wind (2004).

    FORTUNATA by Sergio Castellitto
    A working class hairdresser plans to open her own hair salon, but hooking up with her kid's shrink distracts her. Castellitto (in Muccino's The Last Kiss, Rivette's Va Savoir and Nettlebeck's Mostly Martha, all in 2001) is best known as an adept and prolific actor, a consummate pro. This is his seventh film as director, a field of action where colorful melos like the hyperventilating medical drama Don't Move/Non ti muovere are what often tempt him.

    LOOK UP by Fulvio Risuleo
    A bizarre trip across the rooftops of Rome. "Only Fulvio Risuleo could make such a bizarre and original movie like Look Up and only Giacomo Ferrara could interpret its leading role". Rolling Stone

    Documentary about an important but intentionally low-profile Italian director.

    At once an immersion in Neopolitan arts and culture and a mystery-shrouded thriller-romance. Enjoyably sensuous and beautiful, with surprisingly vivid sex scenes, lots of atmosphere, a little bit inconclusive and, no doubt intentionally, apolitical.

    NOME DI DONNA by Marco Tullio Giordana
    Not at all apolitical, this unexpectedly timely sexual harassment drama. The director is known internationally for his involving 2003 generational saga, The Best of Youth. In this one, star Cristiana Capotondi gives a rich performance. A slow-burning courtroom drama where the male abusers, slick and slimy, get theirs in the end of a long, painstaking sequence of events meticulously set out by the director in a style both low-keyed and grand.

    THE PLACE by Paolo Genovese
    Davide di Donatello-nominated film about a sad-sack mystery man who grants wishes to eleven strangers, in return for carrying out an often extreme and criminal task. Closely based on Christopher Kubasik's US FX cable TV series "The Booth at the End." Genovese's Italian dialogue is simple and natural. . His 2014 Blame Freud was in Italian series but I missed it. This one has stars like Alba Rohrwacher, Silvio Muccino, Rocco Papaleo, and the hot young actor Alessandro Borghi, who also has key roles in Fortunata and Naples in Veils - everybody wants him!

    PURE HEARTS/CUORI PURI by Roberto De Paolis
    This was shown at Cannes 2017 Directors' Fortnight, about a teenage girl in Rome who takes a vow of chastity, then spots a working-class boy eight years older who catches her eye. Touches on themes of class difference and Christian fundamentalism.

    RAINBOW - A PRIVATE AFFAIR by Paolo Taviani
    Based on Beppe Fenoglio’s 1963 novel set during Italy’s mid-1940's civil war when partisans and fascists were fighting, but this arouses mixed reactions. Is it only a "bland literary adaptation" (according to Variety's Jay Weissberg)- or "a quiet classic," as Deborah Young says in Hollywood Reporter? Perhaps somewhere in between.

    SICILIAN GHOST STORY by Antonio Piazza, Fabio Grassadonia
    The Cannes 2017 Critics Week opener, based on a true story of the Mafia kidnapping of a youth to silence his father, with touches of Romeo and Juliet and the Brothers Grimm. This sounds like a winner. TRAILER.

    I reviewed her TV documentary In the Factory/In fabbrica in the 2008 Open Roads. This is something quite different, an adult romantic comedy, based on her own novel, about an academic couple who have to reassess after seven years together. And we will have to reassess Francesca Comencini.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-09-2018 at 08:32 PM.

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    SICILIAN GHOST STORY (Fabio Grassadonia, Antonio Piazza 2017)

    Opening Night Film


    Bad magic

    Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s Lincoln Center 2018 Open Roads: New Italian Cinema opener clearly has links with their feature of four years earlier, Salvo. Both feature romance, a prisoner killed by mafiosi, supernatural elements, and a Sicilian setting. I admired Salvo (featured in ND/NF 2014) for its suspenseful and thrilling single-take sequence early on, and forgave a less effective second half. Perhaps the sophomore film is more unified and more richly layered, yet for me, certain elements made it off-putting. I am not the best customer for magic realism. It is sometimes wasted on me, which has made me not the best audience for the movies of Guillermo del Toro.

    Here, it felt grating to see the way Ghost Story wove a dreamy web of fable and magic around a fundamentally ugly and evil event. The fact is that in the nineties a 12-year-old boy in Sicily was kidnapped by the mafia, held for two years, and then strangled and dissolved in acid. The boy's father had been a mafia assassin, and when he fell into police custody the boy was held to keep his father from turning police informer. (Presumably it didn't work.) This story recalls the Getty kidnapping recently dramatized in the film All the Money in the World, but this time there are more horrific glimpses of the brutal treatment to the boy.

    For the film young Giuseppe (Gaetano Fernandez) is made a couple years older, old enough to have a romance with an invented girlfriend, a schoolmate called Luna (Julia Jedlikowska). It's something of a Romeo and Juliet story. Giuseppe's family don't welcome Luna after he disappears, not wanting to reveal he is gone. Luna's severe (and implausibly stylized) Swiss mother (Sabine Timoteo) continually objects to the headstrong girl's obsession with the boy. Whether this is because omertŕ requires closing ranks against an informer or because she doesn't want her daughter to date a gangster's son, we don't know. In fact despite Ghost Story winning a Davide di Donatello for Best Screenplay Adaptation (from a story by Marco Mancassola), the writing is vague on numerous points. The film slips endlessly into open-ended riffs involving dreams or magical nature that could have used more edits. The anamorphic/widescreen lens work of cinematographer Luca Bigazzi (a longtime collaborator with Paolo Sorrentino, recently on "The Young Pope") is certainly striking but it calls attention to itself and to the strangeness of things to a distracting extent. The style here is baroque.

    Again the filmmakers seem at their best early on, this time particularly in several cute scenes between the boy and girl, especially one where Giuseppe takes Luna to see his horse, which he rides in classic equestrian gear, including a velvet cap and white-on-white shirt and tie. Rather than the son of a gangster assassin, he seems like a young prince, or at least a well off upper class boy. One wishes the film had explored actual social aspects such a romance might have. But this isn't what Piazza and Grassadonia are looking for. They're more interested in weaving a spell with a bird, a weasel, a ferocious black dog, an owl, streams, and a forest of trees that are gnarly, yet slim and manicured-looking. The actors convey a sense of sweet, playful teenagers, but the film wants to make Giuseppe a prince charming. A fable-like feel and teenage sensuality can be blended successfully, as is shown in Manuel Pradal's 1997 classic Marie Baie des Anges, but here, the fantasy tries to hog the screen - alternating with Luna's plucky efforts to find the boy or push authorities to look. But in the end those meld into sequences of magical nature and Luna's dreams, and Giuseppe's.

    After the idyl of the horse, Giuseppe disappears. From then on, the movie mixes dreams of Luna's reunion with him with grimly realistic scenes of his captivity. It is even more painful to witness the boy dirt-covered, in chains, and bloodied in the light of the memorable earlier images of him pristine and smiling, in elegant riding gear. The film is replete with loud, shocking sounds and images. More than a ghost story it's a horror movie. There are scenes of Luna's class at school, which was also Giuseppe's, mostly doing mathematics. Also mixed in are sequences between Luna and her older friend Loredana (Corinne Musallari). The two girlfriends signal each other at night in Morse code with bright lights, and dye their hair the same bright blue, then cut it off. In later scenes they have their hair again. What all this is about is anybody's guess.

    The filmmakers are not concerned to specify what's going on, though it would be mistaken to think there is any mystery around the kidnapping, since it's clear enough amid the elaborate filler.

    Sicilian Ghost Story, 121 mins., debuted as the opening film of Critics Week at Cannes May 2017, opening theatrically in Italy the same day; 8 international festivals; slated for French release 13 Jun. 2018. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center, 31 May-6 Jun. 2018. It has been acquired by Strand Releasing for coming US distribution.

    Opening Night Film, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema.

    Thursday, May 31, 1:00pm & 6:00pm (Q&A with Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza at the 6:00pm screening) .

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-03-2018 at 05:18 AM.

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    THE PLACE (Paolo Genovese 2017)



    Nest of snakes

    In the Davide di Donatello-nominated film The Place, a sad-sack mystery man (Valerio Mastrandrea) sits, seemingly continually, in the back of a cafe-diner with that name, receiving a constant stream of visitors. To each of them he grants wishes. In return, he gives them tasks to perform. These, in proportion to the difficulty or importance of what they request, are extreme or criminal. They must rob a bank to be prettier, kill a stranger's child to save a cancer-stricken son. Is this man an agent of God, or the Devil?

    This film is closely based on Christopher Kubasik's US FX cable TV series "The Booth at the End." It began as a web-only series in tiny segments, like "High Maintenance." In fact all or most of the stories and characters come from that series, except that we are in Italy. Genovese's Italian dialogue is simple and natural. Genovese likes choral, multi-story features. His 2014 Blame Freud/Tutta colpa di Freud was a simpler collection, three people, three stories, one shared psychiatrist. His 2016 Perfect Strangers/Perfetti sconosciuti ups the ante to six long-time friends, who assemble for a dinner and agree to share increasingly complicated and revealing secrets via text, email, and phone messages they receive.

    This time, another mixing up of personal stories occurs, and Genovese has upped the ante even further because now there are eleven "perfect strangers" (and they really are strangers, though they begin in some cases to find out about each other). The Place has enlisted the accomplished assistance of stars like Alba Rohrwacher, Silvio Muccino, Rocco Papaleo, and the hot young actor Alessandro Borghi, who also has key roles in Fortunata and Naples in Veils (everyone seems to want him these days). The stream of strangers approaching the mysterious man strike Faustian bargains with him. The most extreme example is the old lady, desiring to have her husband's Alzheimer's removed, who is assigned by the man to plant a bomb in a restaurant. Hardly less radical, a man must kill another child to save his own.

    Will they carry out their task? Can they? Repeat visits to the Man tease us with delays or changes of mind. The old lady goes back and forth numerous times, and then winds up with a real surprise. In fact surprises and twists are one of the story's main aims, which may seem to cheapen the solemnity of the old-fashioned focus on deep moral questions. But this is a structure we know from movies and short stories forever.

    As the visits begin to multiply and we begin to take in the personal stories and the tasks assigned, it develops that the people and their tasks are beginning to overlap, in dangerous ways. (Perhaps this God is a clumsy God?) Meanwhile a woman on the night shift at the cafe, Angela (Sabrina Ferilli), takes a growing interest in the mystery man, naturally enough, since he is always there when all other customers are gone. His world-weariness clearly attracts her, and also his mystery, as they do us. Ultimately despite his secret identity, he becomes the richest character, since we spend by far the most time with him.

    The Place is importantly different in effect from its TV series source in that it collapses many stories spread over time originally into only 105 minutes. There is no time for the viewer to absorb and contemplate. But of course this is no more than binge-watching, which is what many people do anyway. In this condensed form, it is the more obvious that the nameless, exhausted magus does not sleep, that he is mysteriously inexhaustible as well as always tired, and this is a process that never stops. The film is engaging, fascinating, challenging, ultimately a little bit too much to take in, and, given its lack of resolution, a little bit less than we may have expected, though its texture is finely honed.

    This film is plainly designed for adults, who would have the patience for its complications and repetitive structure and talky format, but the theme seems best designed for young people as a way of posing moral questions. The fundamental one: how far is it acceptable to go to achieve one's desire? If you could get what you wish for, would you do anything to get it? What desires really are worth pursuing? Is morality relative? This is an intensive look at the extremes of egocentrism, but also of the pain of living in the world, having, for example, a sick child.

    The Place is engaging and slick to the Nth degree, well shot and beautifully acted, directed, and filmed. Like much Italian cinema today, however, it takes no real chances, goes only so deep, and, being basically a remake, is fundamentally unoriginal. A great deal of talent has been used to satisfy us with much less than the masters provided during the great years of Italian cinema.

    The Place, 101 mins., opened in Italy in Nov. 2017 and in a dozen other countries in 2018; only three small festival showings. Screened for this review as part of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2018 at Lincoln Center, at the Walter Reade Theater.
    Thursday, May 31, 3:30pm & 9:00pm (Q&A with Paolo Genovese at the 9:00pm screening)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-03-2018 at 05:33 AM.

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    RAINBOW: A PRIVATE AFFAIR (Paolo Taviani 2017)



    One man's war

    Sailing around the landscape is something tie Taviani brothers (who made films in tandem for 62 years) always excelled at: their 1982 Night of the Shooting Stars/La notte di San Lorenzo is full of that. And it happens here, in this feature completed by the 86-year-old Paolo in the absence of his brother Vittorio, who died in April at 88. Based on Beppe Fenoglio’s 1963 novel, this is a war story with a peculiarly Italian focus, Italy’s mid-1940's civil war between partisans and fascists. It's not about the outlines of the conflict but a personal struggle, a "private issue," as the Italian title says, Una questione privata .

    Roger Ebert wrote about La notte di San Lorenzo, which is impressive without being moving, that it was "[a] beautiful film, but it's a disappointment, a series of scenes in which peasants to wartime Italy seem to be posing for heroic post office murals." One can see Rainbow much the same way, only the tableaux are not so heroic. The focus is on the effort of Milton (Luca Marinelli), so nicknamed for his love of English literature, to find a fascist captive to trade for his partisan best friend, who has been caught by the other side.

    Luca Marinelli is tall and handsome in a soulful Italian way, dramatic features, big blue-grey eyes, though he's most notably played a crazy drug addict and a petty criminal in They Call Me Jeeg and Dn't Be Bad (both N.I.C. 2015). We spend a lot of time with him, but it's the captured best friend Giorgio (Lorenzo Richelmy) who's considered the handsome one. Flashbacks show they and the girl they both loved, Fulvia (Valentina Bellč). She is a thin, angular young woman who likes to dance. Valentina Bellč looks good in Forties clothes and hairdo. They loved the record of the Wizard of Oz song by Yip Harburg, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." A couple of years ago they spent an idyllic time at Fulvia's family villa, which Milton nostalgically revisits. It's empty now; Fulvia has gone to Turin.

    Milton is in dangerous situations, as he goes from one partisan base to another, but his obsession is finding a scarafaggio (roach) to exchange for his friend. Loyalty and jealousy war within him, as he fears Fulvia may not only prefer Giorgio, but even may have lost her virginity with him. He wants to know.

    Some vignettes stand out. Milton finds a crazy scarafaggio chanting and beating imaginary drums (Andrea Di Maria). He's a prisoner, but apparently he's so crazy no scarafaggi want him. He gets one scarafaggio (really, they use this term exclusively), but we know it's going to go badly when Milton asks the man what his name is and where he's from. Deborah Young in her Hollywood Reporter review notes with approval that all this is without the usual macho posturing and heroism of most war movies. True, but it is dominated not so much by excitement as a vague anxiety. Pursuing his own private project, Milton is among the partisans but not quite one of them.

    This film has a certain quiet grandeur about it. The Tavianis are on very familiar ground here, going back to the time their first films focused on and the moment that ushered in Neorealism, when Italian cinema had its period of greatness, its renaissance. But this movie arouses mixed reactions. Rather than a "bland literary adaptation" (according to Jay Weissberg's Variety review)- or "a quiet classic," as Deborah Young says in Hollywood Reporter, it's obviously somewhere in between, but Weissberg has a point when he says the fog flowing over the Piedmont hills in this movie symbolizes a "hoary artificiality" - fine cinematic tradition that this time has lost its vigor. But this does not detract from the Taviani's fine work in the past, and just six years ago their film of a prison drama production Caesar Must Die (NYFF 2012) was original and powerful.

    Rainbow: A Private Affair/Una questione privata, 84 mins., debuted at Toronto; seven other festivals including Busan, Rome, Tokyo and Belgrade. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series 31 May-6 Jun. 2018 at Lincoln Center.

    Showtimes (Walter Reade Theater)
    Friday, June 1, 2:00pm
    Monday, June 4, 6:30pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-01-2018 at 01:24 PM.

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    DIVA! (Francesco Patierno 2017)



    A virtuoso life in film

    What do we know about Valentina Cortese? Perhaps not a lot compared to contemporaries like Anna Magnani and Alida Valli. Begin with her supporting role, Oscar-nominated, of the alcoholic movie star in François Truffaut's Da for Night. Ingrid Bergman beat her for a performance in Murder on the orient Express and, properly, said in her acceptance speech that the Oscar should have gone to Cortese. Bergman's award was honorary, and for an insignificant part; Cortese's performance was striking and selfless. Truffaut acknowledged his debt when he got the Best Foreign Oscar: "It is easy to win an Oscar if Valentina Cortese is involved," he said. For a short review of highlights of Cortese's career see the biographical summery on IMDb. The filmography below covers a fifty-three-year period and also included work with Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Terry Gilliam, and William Dieterle. It was a theatrical career too, burnished by a romantic and professional relationship with Italian theatrical legend Giorgio Strehler.

    I watched this film at 4 pm on 1 June 2018, in the Lincoln Center series, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, with the director, Francesco Patierno, present. He said this was an idea suggested to him by the producer that started as "un film piccolo, piccolo, piccolo che č diventato grande, grande, grande," "a little, little movie that became a big, big one." And it is an enveloping experience to watch it with its mixture of elements. This is a phantasmagoric collage and immersive biography based on Cortese's own autobiography Quanti sono i domani passati ("How Many Are the Days Gone By”), but with the information rearranged. She began with the fact that she was born of someone wealthy and immediately given away to be raised by contadini, peasants or country people. She attributed to the orphan feeling this gave her her desire to become an actress and play glamorous parts.

    Patierno pointed at the screening to various instances when Cortese wound up playing roles that closely paralleled her own life.

    Central to the film, which skillfully blands clips from a mind-boggling list of movies Cortese played in, is Patierno's use of no fewer than eight beautiful contemporary Italian actresses, all dressed to the nines, to recount times from Cortese's life in her own words, impersonating her but not mimicking her. Note, they are speaking in her voice, not "enacting" the moments they describe. They are: Barbora Bobulova, Anita Caprioli, Carolina Crescentini, Silvia D’Amico, Isabella Ferrari, Anna Foglietta, Carlotta Natoli, Greta Scarano.

    Diva, which clearly is an exercise in inhabitation, a film that possesses and embodies its subject, skips around in time intentionally, partly to surprise the viewer and catch her off guard. It too begins with the performance of Cortese in Day for Night, which is so good it fools you into thinking it's clips of Truffaut trying to get a scene out of an alcoholic actress. The secret of the actress' abandonment as a baby, Patierno saves for late in his film, as a late bombshell. Before that are accounts of her experiences outside Italy, and especially with Jules Dassin (he and she were drawn to each other) and Darryl F. Zanuck (he played the Harvey Weinstein role).

    Patierno goes back from Dassin's Thieves' Highway and Robert Wise's House on Telegraph Hill and later in the great era of Italian film performances for Antonioni and Fellini, to earlier, more conventional Italian films. Often clips from these films serve to illustrate moments from Cortese's own life recounted by one of her on screen avatars. Sometimes the music is conventional, surging, sugary; sometimes it is modern and electronic.

    The latter recalls Patierno's biggest bombshell at the Lincoln Center screening Q&A: when asked if he had gotten to meet Valentina Cortese in person, he said Diva! just opened in Milan three days ago, and the 95-year-old Valentina Cortese had come for it. You can imagine the emotion, he said, for him and for her, to witness his film together - and if he could only project footage he shot that night on his iPhone, it would make an incredible supplement to Diva. This immersive film is so full of aural and visual information one should see it multiple times, preferably after reading Cortese's autobiography and other books about the directors she worked for. This is a rich gem of cinematic history, but it's greatest interest is in its inventive ways of recreating a film actor's life. It exists chiefly as a tour-de-force that may inspire similar efforts (as one can't help wondering of the multiple-voice narration wasn't inspired by Todd Haynes' inventive Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There) - while outside of specialized Italian cinephile circles its actual subject matter may not be of enormous interest. But it is on the whole a creditable and interesting effort.

    Diva, 75 mins., debuted at Venice,
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-09-2018 at 08:34 PM.

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    Crater (silvia luzi, luca bellino 2017)



    Control freaks

    The team of Silvia Luzi and Luca Bellino have made several documentaries, but turn to a kind of docufiction in this feature debut using non-actors. Il cratere (Crater) focuses on Rosario Caroccia, a Neopolitan fairgrounds hawker who gives out stuffed animals to customer who try for a winning number. It also focuses on his thirteen-year-old daughter Sharon, who is pretty and can sing. When we say focus, we mean focus. The film's relentless visual device is to put the camera smack up close on its subjects, with everything else blurry, which is designed to make the experience depicted universal. It could be anywhere, because we never really see where it is.

    There are four kids, and money is tight. Harsh, chain-smoking Rosario pushes Sharon to develop her singing talent, thereby to achieve, who knows? Fame, recognition, money -belting out for a wider audience the Neapolitan "neo-melodic" songs she has been performing in public one way or another ever since she was a tyke.

    Singing is a quick route to fame compared to harder jobs like classical music or professional sports, the filmmakers have explained - evidently implying they considered those as topics, for a film about underdogs craving social recognition. For the pop route, you buy a song, which costs a thousand euros, then buy an audition on the "Ciao Italia" show or something like that, and when you perform your song, well, maybe it happens.

    Crater is a pain to watch from the start. The visual style seems to thumb its nose at the viewer but, beyond that, Rosario is a really obnoxious guy. Bellino's pre-screening statement that this is a "carnival love story" drew objections from audience members who could see no love here. This is a father never happy unless he is yelling at his daughter or pushing her around. One can only hope this isn't real-life father and daughter Rosario and Sharon's actual relationship. And if it is, wherein lies the fiction?

    Luzi and Bellino are trying to do something special here. In the first scene Sharon recites statements as if for a class about Giovanni Verga and verismo and Flaubert while making artificial gestures and this is to hint that Crater is a flat-out rejection of any kind of realism. Using people playing something close to themselves might contradict that. Their subject, to quote Jarmusch, may the the limits of control. Rosario's efforts to turn Sharon into a pop figure fizzle mainly because she's lazy. As he tells her, "You want to sing only when you feel like it." Indeed, and she really does like to sing, just not as a job. She's lazy about school too: she's missed a lot of it this year, and seems to spend most of her time watching TV with her friend Imma, the two of them singing along enthusiastically whenever a song comes on.

    But in the peculiar, hard-to-watch filming method, and the strict limiting of the action, which only barely sketches in the rest of the family, and of course can't show them all together since it shows only one head or body part at a time, the filmmaking itself shows the limits of control. It's funny that documentarians would not have observed more and manipulated less. But as we said, manipulation is their theme. Rosario also sets up surveillance cameras in their house, and keeps watching the set of screens mostly showing empty rooms. Perhaps the most telling, and certainly poetic and haunting, shot is the final one, showing Rosario repeating over and over a short strip of surveillance footage of Sharon going out a door. This, and a sequence just before where he watches videos of her at various sub-teen stages performing songs, are rare instances where the camera doesn't sneak up and bite its subject but gives us a moment to think.

    Of course stories like this have been told many times in film. Such scenes occur in any musical biopic. Imagine one about Michael Jackson and his "babbo". The action is, given the filmmakers' documentary skills, very realistic, no doubt also as to the recording studio, where the person on the controls sends Sharon away because her voice is too "nasal" and "raucous." That's not really noticeable, and we wonder if this actor, like Rosario, isn't overplaying the harsh side. The competition scene takes place, we guess - as with everything else we don't get to see much - but there isn't extensive development of the conventional music bio narrative. All we know is that Rosario's effort to push Sharon seems to begin losing steam at a certain point.

    Those who like to be challenged may enjoy the visual style, though the idea that it conveys universality seems illusory. The experience offered is unique, also frustrating. The striving for universality seems undercut by the fact that the characters all speak in Campania accent you could cut with a knife, making the ambiance very specific even for Italians.

    Crater has been compared to Visconti's Bellissima and also last year's film Indivisible, Edoardo De Angelis’ story about pretty conjoined twins exploited by their parents as novelty singers - which in turn may remind some of Fulton and Pepe's Brothers of the Head (SFIFF 2006). But those all offer rich visual worlds that Luzi and Bellino intentionally deny us.

    Crater/Il cratere, 93 mins., debuted in the Directors' section at Venice Sept 2017; also was in competition t Tokyo, where it received a special jury prize; theatrical release in Italy 14 Apr. 2018. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center, Q&A with the filmmakers.

    Silvia Luzi, Luca Bellino 2017 Italy 94 minutes
    Q&A with Silvia Luzi & Luca Bellino on June 2
    Showtimes, Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center:
    June 2
    1:00 PM
    June 4
    4:15 PMf
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-02-2018 at 05:09 PM.

  8. #8
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    NOME DI DONNA (Marco Tullio Giordana 2018)


    Patient opposition

    This film by the director of the renowned mini-series The Best of Youth/La meglio gioventů is a timely one indeed. It concerns a case of sexual harassment in which the person involved fought the web of omertŕ protecting offending males and won in court. Both the man and his associate who supported him went to jail. This protagonist is notable for her courage and determination. The film has a sedate pace that makes it a slow burner, requiring our patience, but in return it conveys the magnitude and complexity of events with some subtlety. (This is something like the way Giordana worked in The Best of Youth.)

    Nina (Cristiana Capotondi, who was in the 2013 Open Roads film The Mafia Kills Only in Summer) is an attractive woman preyed upon by a man with power. She takes a job as an attendant at a fancy retirement home at a big estate in the country. The director of the center (Valerio Binasco), interviewing her, corners her and touches her inappropriately. As far as we know, it may only happen once, but it is nasty and exploitative, and Nina does not accept it.

    Soon it becomes clear that this has happened to many of the women who work there. But they insinuate that saying nothing is a necessary condition of keeping their jobs. They scorn and exclude Nina for her insistence that the behavior must be brought out and condemned. There is a culture of acquiescence and complicity, what in the south of Italy, for the mafia, is called omertŕ.

    All the staff and even a local priest connected with the center (Bebo Storti) tells Nina that she is out of line and must not speak up. Her boyfriend tells her that since he makes enough for both of them, she could just quit this job and get away from the oppressive situation. But she likes the job, and doesn't want to have to do that. She wants justice done. Fortunately, she finds legal support. The film becomes a legal drama, and shows how the case works out in Nina's favor.

    Though this is a project Giordana undertook three years ago, it directly relates to the now international Me Too movement against sexual harassment of women. In its subtle, patient unfolding Nome di Donna well conveys a sense of how a single traumatic experience can linger long in the mind and require action. It celebrates Nina's quiet heroism and shows that this kind of injustice can e fought, even in a conservative and protected corner of a Catholic country.

    Though in many ways a finely crafted and and certainly timely film, Nome di Donna is not as strong as it could have been. Perhaps it is to be commended for refraining from over-dramatic moments and showing that this kind of crime is very often committed quickly and quietly but no less harmful and lasting in its effect for that. Nonetheless under the circumstances the film feels like rather a missed opportunity. It suffers from various flaws. As Italian critic Marco Cacioppo (Cineforum) puts it, at a certain point it collapses under its own weight, partly by morphing into a legal procedural in the last section that loses touch with the personal and emotional thrust it has in the beginning. Furthermore, as Cacioppo also notes, Nina's behavior in signing a waiver after beginning legal action is inexplicable, and the director and his administrative associate are too obviously and satisfyingly slimy.

    Nome di Donna, 92 mins., was theatrically released in Italy 8 Mar. 2018. It was screened for this review as part of the Lincoln Center Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series (31 May-6 Jun. 2018).

    June 2 -3:30 PM
    June 5 - 4:30 PM
    Q&A with Marco Tullio Giordana on June 2
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-03-2018 at 06:43 AM.

  9. #9
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    NAPLES IN VEILS/NAPOLI VELATA ( Ferzan Özpetek 2017)



    Dissolving mystery

    A little too poetic and meandering for a police procedural, Özpetek's new film takes him to new and rich Neapolitan locations, glamorous and romantic rather than seedy and gangsterish like in movies like Gomorrah. This is darker, sexier, and less conventionally social than the director's previous work. It seems a little shapeless for a whodunit, in addition to being resolutely apolitical, but it has an alluring mood. The plot line seems a little contrived, but makes an excellent framework for glamorous depictions of Naples and interpretations of its lore in this atmospheric and enjoyable film.

    Adrianna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno of Muccino's 2001 The Last Kiss and Özpotek's 2003 Facing Windows) meets Andrea (hot new Italian actor Alessandro Borghi) at a party given by one of her friends, and they have an incredible night of love - more graphically depicted than sex in any of Özpetek's previous films. It can't end; they make a date to meet the next day, and she is thinking only of him, sleepy and musing on sex as she goes to a museum of antique sculptures (more bodies). He doesn't turn up for the meeting there. Later she finds out why, when she reports to her work as an autopsy physician and he turns up as a corpse, found dead, definitively recognizable by the large tattoo on his groin.

    The plot thickens when Andrea turns out to have a twin brother, Luca (also played by Borghi, of course), who first turns up appearing around town like a doppelgänger, and reports that he and his twin were separated at birth. Luca seems instantly as attracted to Adrianna as Andrea was. Or is he really Andrea, who has perhaps faked his own death? The fact that the corpse was blinded and disfigured suggests deception. The situation remains ambiguous.

    Luca's presence might cause confusion, or attract the unknown killers of Andrea, so Adrianna keeps Luca concealed in her apartment, like a sex toy. Meanwhile she has spent quite a bi of time with Antonio (Biagio Forestieri), a police detective on the murder case who quite clearly is becoming enamored of her, despite coming from a less sophisticated milieu than hers.

    Even though the ending is inconclusive and unsatisfying (Deborah Yount in her Hollywood Reporter review calls it "arty and ambiguous"), Özpetek seems in exceptionally good form here, bolder and more fluent than usual. The cinematography by Gian Filippo Corticell, featuring location choices that include what Young calls "a maze of gleaming, crisscrossing escalators out of an Escher drawing," as well as the striking but perhaps familiar "eye-popping helicoid stairwell which the camera turns into the shape of an eye," and very modern looking interiors, baroque Neapolitan landmarks. All this may be a little distracting, but it also all adds to the deep, lush sense of atmosphere different from Özpetek's usual brighter more everyday Roman settings. Naples definitely is in a sense the protagonist here, felt to be both revealing and hiding her secrets, as the film title indicates.

    Naples in Veils/Napoli velata,90 mins., was theatrically released in Italy 28 Dec. 2017; Moscow film festival. Screened for this release as part of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema.

    showtime (Walter Reade Theater):
    Saturday, June 2, 8:30pm
    Q&A with Ferzan Ozpetek
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-03-2018 at 03:39 PM.

  10. #10
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    EQUILIBRIUM/L'EQUILIBRIO (Vincenzo Marra 2017)



    Small victories that count

    In the calm, polished world of contemporary Italian cinema, Vincenzo Marra's feature Equilibrium/L'Eqilibrio is an exhilaratingly angry movie. Shot with limited means and mostly non-professional actors, it concerns a priest whose quiet struggle for what is right is none the less noble and significant for being largely frustrated. Whatever happens, he has dared to take action against what he sees is wrong. Marra feels that people don't care any more, that we have given up the struggle against the worst powers that be, are dominated by fear of practically everything, and that the gangster forces that dominate his native Naples are nothing compared to the evil rule of the rest of Italy, the north, America, and the world. Father Giuseppe tries, and his path is one the director has frankly talked about as "Christ-like." The modest, understated but incisive The Equilibrium is the most exciting film I have seen in the Lincoln Center Italian film series this year. Its intensity is underlined by the way it follows its protagonist around constantly in a continual series of long single takes, documentary-style.

    Father Giuseppe (Mimmo Borrelli, projecting quiet steadfastness) has been a missionary in Africa, and when first encountered, is working to help and protect refugees as part of his work at a small diocese in Rome. He decides to seek reassignment, and quickly gets it, after he feels his vocation is in danger when his relationship with a female coworker has become too emotional: she has confessed to being in love with him and he also has feelings for her. He is sent to a larger parish on the outskirts of Naples, to his native Campania, where he comes from.

    Father Giuseppe arrives back at the land of Camorra-sanctioned waste mismanagement chronicled in the film Biutiful Cauntri (Open Roads 2008) - where the constant mindless burning of toxic waste has caused Italians to call the region La terra dei fuoci, the land of fires. This is an area where order is maintained not by government but by La Camorra, the local Mafia. (The situation was also chronicled in the Open Roads 2007 fllm See Naples and Die and in Roberto Saviano's book on which Matteo Garrone's Cannes Grand Prix-winning film Gomorrah was based.)

    Father Giuseppe comes to replace a veteran cleric, Don Antonio (Roberto Del Gaudio, convincing as a glib fake), who has been and remains outspoken against the industrial waste problem in the area. Don Antoino seems like a good guy. He talks about the waste issue and about "speaking out" to his congregation, and he points out the burning garbage to Giuseppe. But Father Antonio turns out not really to be one for doing anything. Quite the contrary, though he tells Giuseppe when he leaves to get in touch if there is any problem.

    The story hereafter focuses on particulars. It turns out the waste issue was a safe one. Objection to it is widespread and responsibility is diffuse. Such is not the case for wrongs Father Giuseppe meets. The first thing he runs into is that kids, including Davide, the altar boy, are playing ball in the street while the parish playing court is occupied by a tethered goat that is locked in. When he asks the nun who works at the parish she says this is because the owner of the goat is "a very important person." His effort to set this situation to rights and tie the goat outside are the first thing that arouses he disapproving gaze of the local Camorra.

    The statistics on cancer and other illnesses from the toxic waste and fires are appalling. He goes to a hospital to visit a woman dying of cancer (Astrid Meloni) who begs him to persuade her son Saverio (Giuseppe D’Ambrosio) to see her. Eventually Giuseppe persuades the unwilling Saverio to visit his mother and in doing so he learns the young man's job.He stands guard with a whip in an abandoned building where addicts do their drugs. Why not a better job? Because there aren't any, and straight jobs don't pay anything. The arrangement is to protect Camorra drug interests: if the addicts used in a public, unguarded place, it would draw in the police and interfere with the drug trade.

    The same apples when a more serious issue arises after a parishioner, Assunta (Francesa Zazzera), comes not to confess but to chat. She suspects that her boyfriend is abusing her daughter, and this may be widespread in her building. Nobody can say anything about this because the building is a center for the drug trade, and bringing in the police would jeopardize it.

    When Giuseppe calls in Don Antonio, he scoffs and says Assunta is crazy, having delusions caused by anti-psychotic medication. The nun is scornful of Giuseppe's action on the goat occupying church space. He should leave things the way they are, she says sourly. That is the proper way to behave.

    Don Giuseppe persists with Saverio and with Assunta. He has Assunta's daughter tested and a doctor certifies that she has been used sexually, which he presents to the police. This leads to his being roughed up by Camorra toughs and threatened with a pistol. They send Saverio to threaten him, and then rub Saverio out. Has Don Giuseppe caused Saverio's death? Perhaps; but the pressure not to make waves, to maintain "equilibrium," the status quo, is clearly for Don Giuseppe unacceptable. The death of Saverio is only a small sign of the insignificance of human life to the Camorra. Eventually Don Giuseppe is removed and Don Antonio comes back, taking over the parish again. Finally all Don Giuseppe is able to do is save Assunta and her daughter. But he leaves an honorable man, and Don Antonio is revealed to be a scoundrel.

    In his Variety review from Venice, Boyd van Hoeij is approving of this film but points out that it films about the "far-reaching influence" of the crime syndicates in the Italian South "are many," and that Marra "isn’t working on the scale or with the virtuosity of people like Gomorrah’s Matteo Garrone or someone like Paolo Sorrentino." He also says some of the non-actors are less convincing than ones Marra used in a previous film. This may be true, but Equilibrium has a specificity and conviction not found in those more impressive works. There is something austere and relentless here that strikes home.

    When this was screened at Lincoln Center director Vincenzo Marra was impressive for his passion and his modesty. He began by saying that the opening trailer for the upcoming Visconti retrospective made him think that we should all just go to lunch (it was a 1 p.m. showing). On the other hand he made clear that he remains convinced of the value of small but sincere films like this one about important things - that small inroads on big wrongs have true value.

    Equilibrium/L'Equilibrio, 90 mins., debuted a Venice 5 Sept. 2017. opening theatrically in Italy (typically, very briefly, as Marra pointed out), distributed locally by Warner Bros., a fortnight later; it also was shown at London, Busan, and Buenos Ares. It was screened for this review as part of the 2018 Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center.

    Showtimes (Walter Reade Theater)
    Q&A with Vincenzo Marra on June 3
    June 3 -1:00 PM
    June 6 - 4:30 PM
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-03-2018 at 09:46 PM.

  11. #11
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    FORTUNATA (Sergio Castellitto 2017)



    Frantic Italian melodrama

    In the veteran actor Sergio Castellitto's latest outing as a director, Jasmine Trinca (The Son's Room) plays the ironically named Fortunata ("Lucky"), a young mother and hairdresser living in the eastern outskirts of Rome trying to start her own beauty salon and neglecting her angry eight-year-old daughter Barbara (Nicole Centanni). The daughter's acting out - she spits, which later her mother says she's learning from her - leads mom to take her to Patrizio, a handsome psychotherapist, played by Stefano Accorsi (The Last Kiss, Romanzo Criminale). The treatment doesn't jell, but Fortunata and the shrink form an instant attraction. This foolish event seems the movie's central motive for action.

    There are interesting and known actors. Fortunata's best friend, a bipolar tattoo artist drug addict, Chicano, is played by the hot new Italian star Alessandro Borghi (in two other Open Roads films this year, Naples in Veils and The Place), and Chicano's mother, a once famous German actress now in her dotage, is played byHanna Schygulla, in a very wasted role for such a distinguished performer. Fortnata's estranged, soon-to-be ex-husband Franco (Edoardo Pesce) is also lurking in the wings. In fact he enters the center stage regularly behaving in a threatening and sexually abusive way, by far the most unpleasant of these questionable individuals. Pesce is an actor powerful in projecting evil and menace, and is seen as a mean petty gangster in Matteo Garrone's new film debuted at 2018 Cannes, Dogman. Everyone is rampted up to high a pitch here, but he is particularly so.

    No one quite lives up to their specifications in this rather disreputable group of individuals. Barbara scarcely gets to behave like a child. Fortunata is like a child, but hard to imagine as a hairdresser or performing any job, starting any business. As a psychotherapist, Patrizio mouths soothing generalities, but his goofy smiles do not inspire confidence in his seriousness. Even Chicano never really seems like much of a drug addict, nor a tattoo artist for anybody but Fortunata, nor even bipolar. He seems a beautific hippy with long hair and long beard, dressed in black, looking tanned and fit. Later "bipolar" seems to mean dangerously crazy.

    Jay Weissberg called Fortunata "sloppily scripted" and "very Italian" in his Variety review at Cannes. He points out various weaknesses. There should be some explanation given for Fortunata sitting in on Barbara's therapy sessions, other than the opportunity for her and Patrizio to get turned on by each other."Fortunata confronts Patrizio, their eyes meet, and bang! the two start passionately smooching." Some filmmakers might be able to carry this off, but here somehow it becomes embarrassing. Clearly, it is exceptionally irresponsible of Fortunata to go off on a love idyll to Genoa with Patrizio and leave Barbara in the care of Chicano; it does lead to unfortunate consequences. Patrizio "must be one of the most ill-conceived psychologists in recent cinema," writes Weissberg, because "he makes so many unprofessional choices." He is the more repellant because he seems meant to be sympathetic.

    But above all, as he notes, these characters and their actions have no depth - no deeper than the mugging and shouting and running around of the actors playing them. This is operatic drama, the reason why Weissberg calls it "very Italian," full of extreme emotions that do not convince and aren't clear.

    I am not sure the uniformed Chinese woman doing morning exercises and dark-skinned muslims performing prayer out of doors express xenophobic sentiments. They may merely be included for colorful effect, in emulation of Sorrentino's symphonic sequences in La grande bellezza. I noted Weissberg's comment that as before Castellitto "inserts a wealth of songs at key 'mood' moments," but ineffectually.

    Stephen Dalton expresses no higher opinion of this film in his Cannes Hollywood Reporter review. He noes that Castellitto is more known and respected for his 100+ film roles than for his by now six directorial outings with Margaret Mazzantini as writer. Castellinto may strive to emulate Pasolini's Mama Roma, which had the same location, or vintage Pedro Almodóvar, Dalton says, but Fortunata "ends up something of a soapy hot mess instead."

    One remembers the choreographed rush and throbbing mild hysteria that make Gabriele Muccino's early films fun to watch, with their rhythmic movement and operatic surge. The craft was smoother and more retrained. It could be so because Muccino began with people similar to himself going through experiences he knew about: teenage milestones, turning thirty, midlife crisis.

    Fortunata, 103 mins., debuted at Cannes 21 May 2017 in the Un Certain Regard section, where the star, Jasmine Trinca won Best Actress. It opened in French theaters 31 May. Nearly a dozen other festivals including Munich, Karlovy, Chicago, Warsaw and Belgrade. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema at Lincoln Center, Jun. 2018, the film's New York premiere.

    Showtimes, Walter Reade Theater:
    Friday, June 1, 6:15pm (Q&A with Jasmine Trinca)
    Monday, June 4, 2:00pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-04-2018 at 06:17 PM.

  12. #12
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    LOOK UP/GUARDA IN ALTO (Fulvio Risuleo 2017)


    Long smoke

    The director of this film, Fulvio Risuleo, is 27. He was previously known for the shorts Lievito madre (2014) and Varicella (2015); the latter won the Discovery Award at Cannes. Look Up, Risuleo's inventive feature film debut, uses a young man's impulsive "fugue" across the rooftops of Rome as an entrée into a randomly discovered parallel universe - a world of fantasy and the imagination. As Gerardo Coelo wrote on Letterboxd Look Up is "truly enjoyable" and "plays like a children's adventure story for adults," and "is co incredibly inventive in the world it builds and the characters and situations that inhabit it, that the sheer joy of watching it, forgives any weaknesses (which it definitely has)." This is an inspired flight of Italian whimsy that shows us where Calvino came from.

    The start of it all is a cigarette break on a rooftop in Rome taken by a young baker with Elvis hair, Teco (the appealing Giacomo Ferrara), who climbs up with two coworkers, when they all spy several extraordinarily large white seagulls, one of which crashes on a neighboring roof. Teco vows to take the day off and climb over to find out. He then finds companionship, romance, adventure, delicious and magical food, and other surprises, including a new destiny.

    First off, an unusually articulate little girl (Alida Baldari Calabria) makes friends with Teco and shows him Carlo, a rooster she's cradling in her arms that she says is her "husband." Part of the charm of the film is the genuine surprise and amusement Giacomo Ferrara shows as events unfold, such as this absurdity. Later on when he meets Stella (Aurélia Poirier), the shipwrecked French lady pilot who has parachuted to the roof, there is a sequence of joyous playfulness between the two that is uniquely natural. The girl introduces Teco to a gang of kids in masks, including one who is mute, who is building a rocket ship - a project we will return to for an explosive finale.

    Later Teco and Stella are pursued by a gang of disapproving nuns. But some of the nuns turn up carousing when night falls, and they enter a subterranean party. I could have done without the longeurs of this party: it is probably one of the "weaknesses" Gerardo Coelo alludes to. But, even though it is only an interlude, one might not wish to miss Teco's meeting with Baobab, played by the iconic Leo Castel, who's worked with Marco Bellocchio, Raul Ruiz, and Phlilippe Garrel, among many, and provides a strange, magical encounter, the feel of a real hermetic being, part of another world.

    There is a DIY aesthetic that is essential to the imaginative stimulation of this film, but tech details are not a disappointment. The inventive storyline and charming acting provide most of our gratification. But from the start one is charmed by the retro computer/house/dub music by Cameron Stallones aka Sun Araw, available on vinyl in a double album, no less. The way thirty-one-year-old dp Juri Fantigrossi can make Teco's and Stella's climbing around in rooftop tunnels luminous and beautiful is miraculous. This is a movie Michel Gondry would like to have made.

    Look Up/Guarda in alto, 90 mins., debuted at Rome, 29 Oct. 2017, also playing at Rotterdam, and was in Critics Week at Cannes 2018. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Films series at Lincoln Center.

    Showtimes, Walter Reade Theater:
    June 3 - 8:30 PM


    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-05-2018 at 08:44 AM.

  13. #13
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    Marco Ferreri: A neglected Italian cinematic original

    The direcor of La Grande Bouffe cut off an interviewer who asked him if he'd like to be rememered as a social critic or a visionary with "I don't want to be remembered at all." This documentary by Anselma dell"Olio points in the opposite direction, toward bringing him renewed recognition. While Fellini, Rossellini, Vinconti, De Sica et al. were recognized as masters, Ferreri (1928-1997) was an offbeat artist who did not seek a reputation as one of the great ones. He was an iconoclast, and original. In the world of Italian culture that seeks smoothness and good taste, Ferreri particularly stands out because he didn't try to fit in. Unfortunately, his unique work has been forgotten. This film acts as a corrective.

    Dell'Olio is a film critic who also worked on set with Ferreri as a dialogue coach and adapter. She organizes the film by topics like film, food, flesh, eschewing a conventional voiceover, in order to give Ferreri the kind of presentation he deserves as a true original.

    Roberto Benigni fitly praised and described Ferreri early on in a poem capitalizing on the filmmaker's short rotund look to describe him as a clown. Benigni starred in Ferreri's kindergarten comedy Seeking Asylum. Ferreri himself sometimes described himself as a "buffoon director." Ferreri worked a lot with notable French cinema figures - composer Philippe Sarde, actors Annie Girardot, Gérard Depardieu and Michel Piccoli. His father was a banker. Ferreri gave up his original plan of becoming a veterinarian but retained his love of animals, and humans' relationship with them, as reflected in The Ape Woman (included in the Open Roads Lincoln Center series his year, and to be covered here), and Bye Bye Monkey, about the discovery of the corpse of King Kong on a New York Beach. Sarde is heard from here as well as the director Radu Mihaileanu, the production designer Dante Ferretti, and Cahiers du Cinéma authority Serge Toubiana.

    Sarde talks about Ferreri as a refined and delicate filmmaker, and we learn how he wa the favorite of the likes of Ornelia Buti and Anreaa Ferreol. He was able to engage Mastroianni, Tognazzi, Piccoli, and Philippe Noiret in his works.

    Dell'Olio links Ferreri with Buńuel, Fassbinder and Pasolini as "archangels of destruction of resurrection." With this in mind, he is an Italian writer-director we need to know more about.

    Marco Ferreri: Dangerous But Necessary/La lucida follia di Marco Ferreri, 77 mins, debuted at Venice 2017, where it was covered by Deborah Young in a Hollywood Reporter review . See also the summery for a 30 Jan. 2018 showing by New York Transatlantic, which gives further details. It was screened at Open Roads: New Italian Cinema in an evening of recognition of the forgotten director. Showtime: Showtimes June 5 -6:30 PM (Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center). This film is not currently i listed on IMDb. For her work with Ferreri the director is is listed there as Selma Dell'Olio.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-06-2018 at 07:26 AM.

  14. #14
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    THE APE WOMAN (Marco Ferreri 1964)



    Funny creepy

    Marco Ferreri's 1964 French-Italian production The Ape Woman/La donna scimmia is an odd combination of love story, horror story, and satire. It has some of the feel of the Italian comedies of the sixties, but it goes further, towards creepiness. In its story of a fairgrounds huckster and the woman he uses who loves him, it arouses obvious comparisons with Fellini's La Strada. But it's a different story. In fact, in the Bologna L'Immagine Ritrovata restoration with alternate endings, it's three stories. It's hard to know what to make of it. But it's impossible to overlook. It's one of the iconoclastic Italian director Ferreri's strange creations, brutal satire, full of Italian good humor.

    Focaccia (Ugo Tognazzi) is a sleazy promotor who's enjoying a free meal in the kitchen of a Naples nunnery, when he discovers shy Maria (Annie Giraudot). When he presses and finds she's covered with soft hairs on body and face, his eyes light up with Lire signs. A series of tableau-like scenes follow, some personal, some public. Focaccia's whole effort is to exploit Maria as a freak. He pretends to have found her in a wild, ape-like state exploring in Africa, and builds a little wood cage for the shows. He teaches her to bare her teeth like a monkey and swing from a fake tree. But he can't have her with him unless he marries her. And so the wedding is one of the tableaux. It's done for publicity. Now Maria is no longer ashamed, and there are tears in her eyes as she's paraded through the street singing off-key. Her feelings are mixed, to say the least.

    They are a circus-style working couple, and have a domestic life. She cooks for him. An orphan, raised in the nunnery, she learned to. After the wedding, she insists they sleep together, and they have a sex life. From the start, Focaccia is both nice and mean to her. He soothes her, saying she's "not so bad," and is affectionate. But then he takes her to a rich collector of monstrosities who, told that she's a virgin, wants to pay a large sum to have her to himself for a few days. Maria will have none of it, ending that deal. Tognazzi deserves our admiration for making the real monster, Focaccia, who will pimp out his own domestic partner and exploit her as a freak, bearable to watch, though our sympathies are always with Maria.

    Things seem to be going pretty well (though Ferreri doesn't show the show-biz side of the story in much detail) when Maria gets pregnant. Another particularly creepy and compelling sequence follows when a tall, gangly young French doctor examines her for stomach pains and declares her to be pregnant, then insists that she must have an abortion. A little old domestic servant who acts as interpreter of the doctor's French is appalled, barely willing to utter the word "abortion" in Italian. The always sensible Maria will have none of this idea either.

    The birth of Maria's child leads to the three endings: one sad, one repugnant, and one positive and happy. The sad ending is too abrupt and brutal and must have resulted from the censors objection to some aspects of the longer "Italian ending." Spoiler alert: here are the three endings.

    In the late stages of Maria's pregnancy, there is a scene on a balcony in the nice Naples hotel where they are staying (they have dough from the "performances" even if it's going to run out soon: the hotel is paid up for the month). In it Maria touches her face, and some of the hairs are falling off. He reassures her that it's just part of pregnancy, and they'll grow back richer than ever when the baby's born. Then, after childbirth, Maria is on an oxygen tank, barely able to breathe. She is dying, and Focaccia lies to her that the baby is in an incubator doing fine, but we understand. In a brutally satirical moment, one of a set of observing doctors boasts that he can publish a good article about this.

    The "unabridged Italian version" continues to show Focaccia reclaiming Maria's embalmed body from a museum, to use it as an attraction in his own circus freak show. And the state museum must turn it over, because she's his wife. A tableau of the show follows, with new details, including a male collaborator on the story of African exploration spouting learned fake Latinate phrases. This sequence is numbing.

    Jump to the "French ending." Ferreri dies in French, and collaborated much with French cinematic artists. Why is this version so different, so positive? Did the filmmaker feel it was only the Italians who needed the prodding of cruel satire? Anyway, in this version, Maria does not die, nor does the baby, who is a healthy, completely normal boy, with head "as bald as an egg." She loses all her abnormal face and body hair, and becomes - the pretty Annie Giraudot, who has been lurking clearly behind the fake hair all along of course. Without the freak show wife, Focaccia complains he has no livelihood, and he fast runs out of money. He is pushed to go and work at the port. He resists, but eventually gives in. In the final tableau, a happy Maria comes to greet Focaccia after work down at the port, with their young son at her side, and pregnant again. Focaccia is making good money now, and all is well. All that strangeness is behind them. They are a normal, happy little family. As if all that came before was just a bad dream.

    Produced by the impresario Carlo Ponti, The Ape Woman features the black and white cinematography of Aldo Tonti (Europa ’51, Nights of Cabiria, Barabbas) and is one of many Ferrerri collaborations wth his Spanish co-screenwriter Rafael Azcona, who wrote with him his most famous film, the all-star attack on consumerism La Grade Bouffe.

    The Ape Woman/La donna scimmia, 92 mins., opened in Italian theaters Jan. 1964 and showed at Cannes 4 May 1964, and was nominated for the Palme d'Or. It opened in NYC Sept. 1964 (dismissive, abusive review by the Times' sometimes clueless Bosley Crowther). It released in France as Le Mari de la femme ŕ barbe. A digital restoration showed at Venice Sept. 2017, and this version was shown at Lincoln Center as part of Open Roads: New Italian Cinama, where it was screened for this review.

    Showtime at Walter Reade Theater:
    June 5 -8:45 PM
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-06-2018 at 10:54 AM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    PURE HEARTS/CUORI PURI (Roberto De Paolis 2017)



    Tough stuff

    In a fast, highly focused sequence that sets the tone for the whole movie, at the outset of Pure Hearts/Cuori puri a girl is chased and caught by a young man working as a security guard. She has stolen a cell phone from a mall. She begs him to release her and he relents, and lets her walk away with the phone.

    She has not walked out of his life but into it. How can they resist each other's intensity? These two star-crossed lovers won't let each other go, and the stuff pulling at their lives won't, either. Nor can we resist this compelling first scene and its consequences. Cuori puri is a fiercely focused little movie that runs and won't let you go. The title refers to Christian doctrine, but the movie itself has a "pure heart" too. Equally important, it has a good plot built out of the simplest and knottiest of everyday issues.

    The girl is Agnese (Silene Calamazza) and the young security guard is Simone (Simone Liberati). Agnese is 17, about to turn 18. She is part of a Christian school and community and lives with her single evangelical mom. She is slim and pretty. Stefano is 25, robust and good-looking, seething with repressed energy. The outcome of their encounter makes her deeply grateful to him, and arouses an attraction in him that almost immediately finds a strong echo in her. He's from the wrong side of the tracks. She's under unusually trying moral constraints.

    Agnese's Christian mother Marta (Barbora Bobulova) is kind but worried and overprotective. The reason she stole the cell phone turns out to be that her mother has taken hers away and won't return it, thus cutting her off from her school friends. Marta has pressed Agnese to take a vow of chastity till marriage, and she has agreed. But evangelical principles aside, Marta's seizing of Agnese's cell phone for suggestive messages she insists the boys sent her unsolicited is a sign Marta can't adjust to having a teenage daughter. Marta's mistrust is the kind that spurs rebellion in any normal teenager.

    Before long Agnese and Stefano run into each other again - they're in the neighborhood - and before you know it he's kissing her. He puts his number on her new stolen phone, and an intense back-and-forth relationship ensues. This, Agnese must hide from her mother, leading to a major deception when the attraction leads to consummation - a vivid first sex scene.

    At the film's Cannes 2017 Directors' Fortnight debut Jay Weissberg wrote a review of the film for Variety and Harry Windsor wrote one for Hollywood Reporter. Windsor praised the film for dealing with issues (religious fundamentalism, the Roma population) without seeming didactic. Weissberg was encouraged to see a small, original movie getting a major push-off against a sea of bigger budgeted Italian "mediocrities." This is encouraging. Cuori puri may be the new Italian neorealism. There are so many issues here, but they count as nothing against the attraction of a young couple falling in love, the force of it keeping things real.

    Letting Agnese go gets Stefano fired from the mall and leaves him now stuck with a tedious new job guarding a parking lot. It adjoins a camp of Roma - gypsies- who are constantly threatening to overrun the flimsy wire fence, and apart from this constant provocation Stefano is ill equipped to deal with, this is a dull, lonely job.

    Stefano speaks full-on Roman dialect and grew up poor. It turns out that while lately he has been trying to make a living by honest means, he was part of a small-time gang headed by drug dealer Lele (Edoardo Pesce, also in Open Roads 2018 film Fortunata, as well as Garrone's Cannes prizewinner Dogman). Thanks to his deadbeat, formerly abusive father (Federico Pacifici) ) Stefano's parents are months behind in rent and about to be evicted. They will be forced to go and live in a trailer, which also can't last. This turn of events makes Stefano see his people are not much of a cut above the Roma, who Lele tells him have plenty of money, despite their "caravans." Lele observes Stefano's struggle with the parking lot mockingly.

    A Stefano, Liberati is a live wire. His sheer power onscreen impresses without seeming too theatrical. The movie is anchored by the explosiveness of the scenes between Caramazzi and Liberati, even on a first date when they go to the beach - for which she has realistically prepared by shaving around her pubes. This seemingly little swim is not without a playful underwater scene, symbolically underlining how deep the pair is raidly going.

    But the well constructed screenplay insures that the scenes in between are almost as good, even the group ones where the big, bearded young evangelist priest Don Luca (Stefano Fresi) teaches the group Agnese is also in. Though De Paolis means us to see there is purity outside rigid chastity, Don Luca is likable and his lessons sound sensible. (Likewise the Roma get, though at some remove, a fair shake.)

    Pure Hearts, satisfyingly, gives you no time to think. It's not very clear how Marta supports herself and Agnese or what Agnese's life is like outside Don Luca's pep talks and Stefano's wooing. De Paolis invests heavily in intense, emotional scenes, with no time spent on background or atmosphere, but it works.

    Pure Hearts/Cuori puri, 114 mins., debuted 23 May 2017 in Directors Fortnight at Cannes, showing in at least five other international festivals. It was screened for this review as part of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2018. Q&A with Roberto De Paolis on June 1.

    Showtimes (Walter Reade Theater)
    June 6 -2:00 PM
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-07-2018 at 05:44 AM.


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