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Thread: New York Film Festival 2023

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  1. #31
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    FERRARI (Michael Mann 2023)



    Adam Driver and other cast members impeccable in the slightly bloodless 'Ferrari'

    A sports action film with an Italian setting directed by 80-year-old Michael Mann, Ferrari is based on a biographical book, but it isn't a biopic. Even though some critics think it lacks emotion and only "toodles along," that's quite unfair. It is beautiful and teems with energy, and focuses on a critical moment in the life of luxury and racing car magnate Enzo Ferrari (addressed by everyone as "Commendatore") in 1957 when everything is at issue for him. It's a movie teetering impeccably between triumph and disaster, beautiful to look at, wonderfully edited, but a bit old fashioned.

    Everything is at issue for the Commendatore. That includes business, his reputation as owner of, with Maserati, Italy's most prestigious racing car team; his marriage, and also his partnership, because his volatile wife Laura (a wound tight, go-for-broke Penélope Cruz, in top form), handles the books; and last, but not least, his relation to his illegitimate son, Piero, son of Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley), whom he loves, and needs as a successor.

    Laura doesn't know about Piero, or want to know about Lina. She instead merely shoots a real bullet into the wall next to Ferrari's head for returning one morning after the maid has come in. The shame of it! And this silly, if dangerous, incident shows the film, on the verge of tragedy, is also not without humor.

    This is Adam Driver's second turn as a rich and important Italian businessman. It is not really such a good idea - though Driver seems able to play any role, or a lot of them anyway; but this is a considerably better film than House of Gucci.

    But herein lies the problem: because American movies in which Italians or Frenchmen all speak English with fake Italian or French accents are an item past its sell-by date. We have become more sophisticated about language, even if the average educated Yank still lacks fluency in other languages. Gone is the day when a great movie like David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, which is all about going native in the Arab world, could contain in its long run only two little spots of semi-Arabic dialogue, "Allahu Akbar" and (though perhaps the latter is better described as camel language) "Hut-hut-hut!" It is certainly okay for the central driver on Ferrari's team, Alfonso de Portago, to speak English: this risk-taking aristocrat was born in London with an Irish mother. But everybody in Modena, Italy, in Michael Mann's lovingly recreated 1957 images? No. This will not fly.

    So when we begin to accept this outmoded convention, we are slipping back into a movie world of fifty years ago. Or maybe twenty. Michael Mann is an octogenarian, and this project of his goes back at least as far as the year 2000; in fact he is recorded as thinking about it as far back as 1993. (He has also not put out a movie in eight years.)

    Ferrari has two main strands: mounting a major team to compete in the then hugely famous 1,000-mile cross country Forumla One race, the Mille Miglia, to jumpstart the Ferrari luxury car business, which is on the brink of bankruptcy - a competition that ends in the spectacular death of the most glamorous driver in history, his navigator, and nine innocent Italian spectators, with the driver's body split in two, the whole event depicted with neatness, color, and precision, but not dwelt over. This quick moving on seems in the spirit of the protagonist. Enzo Ferrari, himself originally a racing driver, who, despite having recently lost his young legitimate son to kidney disease, seems to possess the extreme sportsman's mixture of awareness of danger and indifference to it.

    Despite its moments of operatic emotion - and real opera, intercut, dubiously, with shiny red Formula One cars tearing up the road - and Laura Ferrari, the wife's jealous cursing and threats (she will not allow Enzo to recognize Piero while she is alive), there is a certain coldness and dryness to this movie. Maybe it's too beautiful. Maybe it was planned too well and too long. The immaculate, dramatic cinematography of Erik Messerschmidt, the neat editing of Pietro Scalia, the spot-on costume design, the evocative and accurate mise-en-scène, all contribute to a sense of perfection that both satisfies and shuts down emotion. One is satisfied on multiple levels, but cut off. And despite the screenplay's focus on family and the contradictions of Ferrari's glamorous and difficult life - as if he is driving a Formula One car through his own existence, it is, as with most movies about car racing, the racing itself, the gleam of the red bodies and satisfying roar of the purebred engines and sight of the long tree-lined roads being torn up, the cars vying for position at a hundred miles an hour on tricky curves - that stand out in the mind.

    Ferrari, 130 mins., premiered at Venice Aug. 31, 2023; also shown at Toronto and in the New York Film Festival, where it was screened for this review, as the Closing Night film Oct. 13, 2023 at 6 p.m., the US premiere, featuring a Q&A with Michael Mann, Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz and Gabriel Leone. Metacritic rating: 74%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-13-2023 at 06:55 PM.


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