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Thread: Open Roads: New Italian Cinema At Lincoln Center 2024

  1. #1
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    Open Roads: New Italian Cinema At Lincoln Center 2024

    Open Roads: New Italian Cinema At Lincoln Center 2024 (May 30- June 6, 2024): REVIEWS




    Opening Night

    Virtue over victory: an Italian submarine drama

    Owen Gleiberman's Variety review of Comandante from Venice describes an interesting, different kind of WWII submarine film, with less military, because grubby-undershirt-wearing, crew members, an introspective, poetic leader, and a narrative more about mood and quixotic fine gesture than maneuver. He reports himself disappointed because the filmmakers, instead of fleshing out characters and developing a weighty sense of drama, is bent solely on one project: being "the delivery system for a humanitarian message." This uplifting focus perhaps explains the film's being chosen to open the Venice festival (when Challengers was withdrawn due to union strikes) and now being the opener again, of the Lincoln Center Open Roads Italian series. But despite theuplift, something isn't right here: though it may be based on a true story, this becomes a war movie that never seems real or about war. Not unlike Gleiiberman, Jordan Minter in a Hollywood Reporter review calls Comandante "wrecked by its own worthiness."

    In the story, based on an actual incident early in the war, after sinking a Belgian merchant ship that attacks them, the Italian submarine Cappellini's captain, Salvatore Todaro (Pierfrancesco Favino) departs from partisanship to save the Belgian crew of the ship he has sunk. Nazis would let them drown; but we're Italian, so we save them, says the eccentric Captain Todaro. That's the message: save men in a desperate situation, even if they're likely to wind up being on the other side. (The Belgians hadn't officially declared yet at this point early in the war.) The director's stated message is "Salvatore knows the eternal laws that govern the sky and the sea and he knows that they are superior to any other law." This is "noble and upstanding," Gleiberman wrote, but "isn't enough to make it an exciting movie." Note also that to protect the Belgians, Tddaro at one point serously endangers his own men. It is "mildly stirring," Gleiberrman says, "but much of the movie just sort of lopes along."

    Favino is always watchable, but he has both too much and too little to work with here. This is an eccentric part he can fly with, but it floats out into outer space. Better to watch him in something compelling and important like Marco Bellocchio's mafia informant story The Traitor/Il traditore (2019, NYFF), or Mario Martone's returning wanderer tale Nostalgia (NIC 2023). We never know quite what his captain in Comandante is going to do next. He's more a concept than a person.

    This film is very operatic. You expect the men to burst into song, and eventually they do, led by the Neopolitan galley cook (Giuseppe Brunetti) on a mandolin. After the stranded Belgians are taken on board and things are terribly crowded and food is running low, we would seem in for a grim ordeal. But no, the Belgians teach the cook how to make French fries (the Belgian national dish), and everybody laughs and has a good time. End titles inform us that the captain was killed in his sleep just as he predicted two years later (he had a reputation as a seer), while every crew member of the Belgian vessel survived the war. Dramatic though some of the scenes are, the whole film will live in the memory, if at all, only as an odd incident. It seems more a portrait of a very eccentric Italian Royal Navy submarine captain, Salvatore Todaro, than a picture of a noble action. There are good individual characters, but other than Todaro, they don't seem essential to the action.

    The acting is good and so is the cinematography. The editing could have included clipping off fifteen minutes at the beginning about the captain and his wife that are arty and self-indulgent and simply unrelated. There is much that is engaging and intense and even sometimes beautiful here, but given the way it "lopes along," the two hours unwind somewhat slowly. But this is confident filmmaking with entertaining moments, as noted.

    Edoardo De Angelis also directed (The Vice of Hope, Open Roads 2019; Indivisible, Open Roads 2017). There seems to be a move to replace the highly appropriate title for the anglophone market with "The War Machine" (based on one character's speech), perhaps to avoid confusion with Matteo Garrone's well-received more recent film Io Capitano.

    Comandante, 120 mins., debuted at Venice Aug. 30, 2023, also showing at Haifa, CineLibri (Bulgaria), opening in Italy Oct. 31, 2023. Screened for this review as the opening film of the 2024 Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center (May 30-June 6, 2024). Showtimes:
    Thursday, May 30 at 7:00pm – Q&A with Edoardo De Angelis
    Monday, June 3 at 3:15pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-06-2024 at 07:49 AM.

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    ADAGIO (Stefano Sollima 2023)



    Cops and gangsters circle each other around a boy in an apocalyptic Rome

    Rome is taking a beating again in Stefano Sollima's lugubrious Adagio. In last year's series the Eternal City was running out of water in Paolo Virzì's Dry/Siccità. - a vaguely sketched if pervasive eco-disaster. Here there is an apocalyptic edge. The city is ringed with fires. Large plumes of dark smoke loom on the edges that are closing in as the film comes to its slow end. Lights often go out because the fires cause power outages, then finally everyone is trying to flee.

    In the foreground the city's famous landmarks are never glimpsed, but the color-saturated action feels momentous. Cops and gangsters circle around each other, a couple of the latter played by no less than Pierfrancesco Favino and Toni Servillo, seen as no longer active criminals but still feared and hated. At the center of all this much ado is a young man, perhaps just a boy, whom the cops call "il cuccio," the Puppy, and has gotten himself into a world of "merda."

    The Puppy is the shaven-headed, headphones-wearing Manuel (a perpetually startled-looking Gianmarco Franchini). He's an innocent - oddly enough, since he's the son of a retired gangster known as Daytona (Toni Servillo). Daytona wanders around reciting senseless sums, pretending to be addled, which some buy and others don't; with the masterful Servillo we're ready to believe whatever he wishes, including this elaborate, somewhat pointless shtick. Before the action begins, the cops have caught young Manual selling coke and threatened him with jail time to make him agree to gather intelligence for them. This is where we meet him, gaining entrance to a large, kinky "party" resembling a gay disco - the film's big, but brief, opening set piece - in order to secretly photograph the participants. But Manuel immediately gets freaked out after being photographed himself doing coke and bolts. There are many images of banks of surveillance camera screens in the film and also lots of complex mid-range horizontal images underlining a feeling of complexity and lack of a center.

    Manuel, the Puppy, is the center of interest, but it's not altogether clear why he's so important except that everybody thinks he knows too much, and he has nowhere to hide. What he knows that is so crucial remains unclear, but he's frightened and exposed: he's also later reported to have been seen giving a blowjob, which in this macho world he of course would never want his father to hear about. (He pleads that it was only to make money.)

    Much fuss seems to be getting made made over rather little here, despite style and mood, menace and violence, and the impressive star actors, who include Valerio Mastandrea as a now blind gangster called Polniuman (Paul Newman) whom Manuel goes to, who sends him to Camello (a well disguised Pierfrancesco Favino), a man gravely ill and just out of prison. Several characters are killed but they seem curiously unimportant to the action.

    Director Sollima, who has worked on the "Gomorrah" series and other gangster dramas, regards this film as the last in a Roman trilogy. He has chosen as his movie title the musical designation for a slow and easy movement aptly, as a warning. The pic chugs along with occasional waves of energy. But the multiple plots go their own separate ways, and it all winds up taking half an hour longer than necessary.

    Sollina has been accused of trying unnecessarily to play the "auteur" in Adagio when straightforward genre work would have been enough. Yes, these are some of Italy's greatest film actors. They do their damnedest to make their onscreen moments tasty. But the action is hampered by a screenplay lacking in solid motivation. There is a lot about families, fathers and sons, real names and assumed monikers. But these themes are not always well stabilized by a solid plot line.

    Stefano Sollima is a director known for his crime dramas, such as ACAB – All Cops Are Bastards (2012), Suburra (2015), and Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018), as well as the television series "Romanzo criminale – La serie" (2006–2008), "Gomorrah" (2014–2021) and "ZeroZeroZero" (2020). Perhaps not quite sure whether it's a feature or a series, his film is largely a mood piece that draws together mafiosi and carabinieri who circle around each other lengthily without the story ever quite drawing to a satisfying conclusion.

    Adagio, 127 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 2, 2023, also showing at Mumbai Oct. 29, and opening in Italian theaters Dec. 14; it was included at Rotterdam Jan. 26, 2024. Screened for this review as part of the 2024 Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center (May 30-June 6). Showtimes:
    Sunday, June 2 at 9:00pm
    Wednesday, June 5 at 6:00pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-25-2024 at 10:45 AM.

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    Moretti's study of a self-indulgent movie director is itself self-indulgent

    Nanni Moretti is a special kind of Italian auteur who is priviledged in his own country. He even has his own movie theater in Rome. His work has varied from personal diary (Caro Diario) to the emotionally ravaging tale of family loss The Soh's Room, which won him the Palme d'Or at Cannes (he dealt effectively with the loss of a mother in Mia Madre), to the oddball study of the election of a Pope, Habemus Papem, and the attack on Berlusconi, The Caiman. Many of Moretti's films, though, feature a thinly disguised version of hiimself. A Brighter Tomorrow/Il sol del'avvenire returns to that format. It has been deemed a return to form by some, but that's a stretch. The last one, Tre Piani/Three Floors, (20211) got his bottom score ever on Metacritic, 42. A Brighter Tomorrow has a 47, his next-worst-ever score.

    There have been a few pretty positive assessments of the new film. But Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian, usually a generous critic, while describingThe Son's Room as "the greatest Cannes Palme d’Or winner of the century so far," calls this new one "bafflingly awful." That's slightly harsh. Some will find its leftist reworking of Fellini's 8 1/2, with Moretti himself confidently, if sometimes gratingly, in the Mastroianni/Fellini role, to be intermittently watchable. But it can definitely be recommended only for Moretti completists outside his home turf, where it has been well received. Note that since the Palme d'Or, Moretti gets free inclusion in Competition at Cannes, and as a result this film has been reviewed in all the major journals, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Screen Daily, IndieWire, etc. That all those critics bothered to write reviews means something.

    Giovanni (Moretti, going by his real first name) is a director working on a movie about Italian communists during the time of the Hungarian Revolution. At the same time he, nearing age 70 (as is Nanni) faces near chaos, which he faces with a rgidity that's self-mocking, but hardly cuddly. His producer (an oily, grinning Matthieu Almaric) bolts; his wife of 40 years, also his partner and produceer (Margharita Buy, familiarly in this role) is telling him she's splitting. And this is pretty obviously not a movie that would ever get made anyway. The way Giovanni makes arbitrary changes in his film at the last minute is more obnoxious than auteurist.

    But as Lee Marshall of Screen Daily puts it in one of the most favorable reviews, Moretti here can be seen as "once again" having created "edgy comedy out of a process of self-therapy." Moretti, who is tall and still fairly good-looking and carries himself well, still presents a commanding figure on screen, while sometimes being funny, sometimes even appealing.

    Giovanni, who forces his family to watch Jacques Demy classic Lola before each production (this time they walk out), has no time for actors who improvise or otherwise bring their own ideas to the set and In one scene he takes a pair of scissors to a freshly tailored costume saying this will makes it look more "realistic." Unfortunately there isn't much in this film and its film-within-films (there are two; another one being produced by young Koreans) that is realistic, though an unproductive meeting with Netflix is a grim breath of global commerce.

    At the end, there is simply a parade of Moretti's friends and actors in former films, one more pointless self-indulgence in a film that has been a string of them. And one more thing that will delight his Italian fans.

    A Brighter Tomorrow/Il sol dell’avvenire, 95 mins., debuted at Cannes 2023. Screened for this review as part of the annual Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center (May 30-Jun. 6, 2024). Showtimes at the Walter Reade Theater:
    Saturday, June 1 at 8:00pm
    Thursday, June 6 at 3:30pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-30-2024 at 09:21 AM.

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    ENEA (Pietro Castellitto 2023)



    World-weary young Romans deal coke in a grandiose film that sometimes impresses, sometimes bores

    The young man with the epic name (Aeneas) is played by Pietro Castellitto, son of Sergio, who also wrote and directed. This is his second such effort; his first was the expletive-intense, award-winning The Predators three years ago). Enea doesn't do the dealing for money -- his is a wealthy family with a therapist father and a talk show host mother -- but to experience something that takes him away from the void of contemporaneity, from a Rome that seen from above looks to him, flying his little private plane, "like a concentration camp." He manages a high-end sushi restaurant but does the crooked stuff for thrills, with his friend Valentino (Giorgio Quarzo Guarascio). Younger brother Cesare Castellitto gets to play another family role as teenage brother Simone, aka Brenno.

    But this film feels dead on arrival with a tedious opening conversation between Enea and mom (Chiara Noschese) and Valentino about how boring their lives are. Sincerity is not found in the family, at least not in that of Rome well staged by Castellitto , but in conversations with criminals while negotiating the payment for a big cocaine deal. The short-lived gangster Giordano (crime film vet Adamo Dionisi) while he lasts has some of the best lines: he is allowed to be soulful and human. Castellitto seems sometimes better here at playing with glamor and danger and gangsters, tedious when he tries to deiect the boredom of his wealthy surroundings; his skill in that area comes and goes; there are good moments. There are too many generalizations, but there is some passion and wit when his character says his contemporaries all speak every Christmas of their "remorse" for "the buildings they didn't buy, the trips they didn't take, the love affairs they should have had." It's pretty powerful when Enea's father Celeste, played by PIetro's actual famous actor father, says then, "The difference between us is that I came from a poor family, and you didn't."

    They differ on Rome itself. Again as in Simone Sollima's apocalyptic Adagio we never see landmarks. Enea thinks it looks like a cemetery from above. His mother thinks its dark skyline is gorgeous at night when they are all eating a long gourmet meal in their restaurant, a "journey" with accompanying "flight" of wine. The trappings of contemporary wealth are sometimes well captured by the set designer - a long thin modern sofa, the tall speakers of a costly audio system.

    The big cocaine deal carried out by Enea and Valentino, amateur crime that goes wrong, is a familiar and perhaps promising theme, but here it feels patched-in, as is the tree that falls and crushes the house and the burglars who later invade the house and break things but don't steal anything; Celeste pointlessly trashing a room. A lot seems done for effect, out of cinematic braggadocio. In a devastating review inHollywood Reporter at Venice, David Rooney called c this film "a soulless bit of self-indulgence that seems far too pleased with itself" and a "genre-adjacent non-thriller" that you won't like unless you have a taste for "well-heeled Romans blathering on" about "the encroaching emptiness inside them." Rooney calls the film "overlong" and "windy," it's investigation of the "hypocrisy, shallowness and moral decay of wealthy Italians" feeling "too embedded in that world to have much bite."

    Guy Lodge in his Variety review calls Enea"emptily swaggering," less sharp than the young director's debut three years ago, which won the Venice Horions Screenplay prize. This one, Lodge notes, feels overlong with the way it hammers away its points, and its overblown style is "plainly indebted to Paolo Sorrentino at his most ostentatious." However Lodge does acknowledge that the film's glizy, coke-fed party sequences that achieve a sort of "Eurotrash-Gatsby pull even as they repel us" thanks to cinematography by Radek Ladczuk (The Babadook, The Nightingale) who "drives his camera kinetically through crowds, strobe lights, excessively feathered decor and curtains of sulphur-yellow smoke" in ways that "more or less succeed." In other words all the flash, whether it has a point or not, still works as spectacle.

    Rooney hits home when he points to Enea's surfeit of "flashy technique" and "ostentatious stylistic flourishes". All this Italian glitz and world-wearyness worked once, of course, but that was when the stylists showing off and delineating modern boredom and soullessness were Fellini and Antonioni. The trouble is, and this is the Italian artist's burden, it has all been done already, and by great ones. And what's with the feel-good wedding and renewal of vows sequence at the end?

    And yet I was rooting for Pietro Castellitto all the way. I wanted him to succeed in achieving a brilliant film that's a grand statement about modern Italian decadence and disillusion. As the worldly-wise gangster Giordano says, life is short. You must try. Ambition is admirable. But then the magpie critics will come and shit on you, like the pigeon that splatters Enea's face when he's lying on the lawn one day.

    On the plus side, Deadline says the film is "overstuffed but never dull." Lee Marshall in Screen Daily calls the young director - the youngest of Venice this year - "a talent to watch." Whether or not that's true, Enea has numerous watchable moments, and ambition to spare.

    Enea, 117 mins., debuted at Venice (like his first film as a director) Sept. 5, 2023, opening theatrically in Italy Jan. 11, 2024; Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center (May 30-Jun. 6, 2024). Showtimes at the Walter Reade Theater:
    Tuesday, June 4 at 3:30pm
    Thursday, June 6 at 6:00pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-30-2024 at 09:37 AM.

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    MI FANNO MALE I CAPELLI (Roberta Torre 2023)



    Movie love madness in a tour de force by Alba Rohrwacher

    Award-winning Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher, sister of director Alice Rohrwacher - the two are known for their collaborations in The Wonders and Happy As Lazzaro - gets to give her all in Mi fanno male i capelli ("My Hair Hurts"), a rather slight film that is essentially an extended mad scene. Rohrwacher plays Monica, a woman losing her memory and replacing real recollections with manufactured ones. In a far-fetched but cinematic conceit, the new memories are largely based on snatches of old films featuring Monica Vitti, the great Italian actress of the Sixties who among other things was the muse of directorial great Michelangelo Antonioni.

    Some viewers will wish that we were simply watching Monica Vitti in her prime, an image that is magical, evokes the best days of Italian cinema, and. never tires. Although Rohrwacher puts great energy into her performance as the madwoman Vitti acolyte and is well aided by the staff of Roberto Torre's film with hair, makeup, and costume (by Massimo Cantini Parrini), constantly changing and mimicking scenes from various Monica Vitti films that include ones co-featuring Marcello Mastroianni and Alain Delon such as L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse, and Il Deserto rosso, these tend, as mimicry, to disappoint by reminding us how unique and special the real Monica Vitti was. Rohrwacher has energy and technical skill; Vitti had panache and charisma, that unique je ne sais quoi her imitator here lacks.

    But to appreciate the oddly titled Mi fanno male i capelli (which echoes a line in Antonioni's gloomyIl deserto rosso) we must disregard this discrepancy and focus instead on the cunning ways the film morphs in and out of clips and interweaves them with Rohrwacher's improvised mad scenes. The Rohrwacher "Monica" frequently changes from dark brunette to blonde, as does Vitti in the clips. For a while the mad Monica comes to believe that she is talking to frequent costar Alberto Sordi (his voice somewhat unconvincingly immitated offscreen), and she fashions an extended fantasy that Sordi has invited her to officiate at a grand reception at his home.

    Meanwhile a less developed, and rather less engaging, "real" subplot - to anchor the flimsy scenario in a harsh reality - unfolds, involving the mad Monica's husband Edoardo (Filippo Timi), and his financial woes. He has transferred them from a Rome house to one by the sea where it is more "quiet" but major debts and a breached contract are threatening to force relinquishment of the Roman property. His mother is urging him that he needs to transfer his wife to a sanatorium while he seems to enjoy having her roam free with her fantasies and her role-playing. The filmmakers do too. Their and Alba Rohrwacher's fantasy has its moments. But it burns itself out quickly and the film's 83 minutes are more than enough.

    Beside the hair, costume, and makeup help, the Wong Kar-wai composer Shigeru Umebayashi provides a warm and glowing musical background. The seaside moments are evocative and so is a sequence when "Monica" wanders off into a sunbaked seaside movie house whose big screen magically is showing the cinematic Monica.

    Rohrwacher impersonated another Italian film great last year, playing the elusive Third Man star Alida Valli in Saverio Costanzo's Finalmente Alba. Reports (on Letterboxd) are that that one also features a lion in flight toward the end, an odd coincidence, and, the Letterboxd contributor thinks, both bad movies.

    Mi fanno male i capelli, 83 mins., debuted Oct. 19, 2023 at the Rome Film Festival (xnot included at Venice), Italian theatrical release Oct. 20. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center (May 30-Jun. 6, 2024). Showtime at the Walter Reade Theater:
    Sunday, June 2 at 7:00pm

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-26-2024 at 12:46 PM.

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    Neorealist style attack on patriarchy hits us over the head, yet is spot-on

    There is no subtlety to this film shot in black and white and set in an impoverished 1946 Rome, and none intended. When the brutal dolt of a husband Ivano (Valerio Mastandrea ) wakes up in bed, the first thing he does is slap his wife, Delia (Paola Cortellesi) hard across the face. She is not only a mere servant for her husband, her life a string of wearying day-to-day jobs and devices to scrape together a little money, but he continually mocks and abuses her. She is just chattel to him. Despite a lingering romance with Nino (Vinicio Marchioni), a mechanic in the neighborhood who could have been a decent partner and still wants her to run off with him as he migrates to the North, Delia feels utterly trapped. Much of the film is a detailed picture of impoverished postwar Roman life and woman's place at the bottom of it.

    More tellingly, conversation between the eldest daughter Marcella (Romana Maggiora Vergano) and her fiancé Giulio (Francesco Centorame) reveals that she will be chattel for him, too. He tells her henceforth she will wear makeup only for him and not for work, and after marriage, she'll no longer work. "You're mine," he says, and her mother hears, and sees him grab her by the neck the same way Ivano grabs her. Mutual violence is softened a little for us by being presented halfway as a dance. Everyone fights, and the younger kids use coarse, abusive language they've learned from their male elders, who include faux-invalid, menacing grandfather Ottorino (Giorgio Colangeli).

    The mother, the main character in this film, is played by Paola Cortellesi, the writer-director, who is also a famous and popular comedienne and singer renowned throughout Italy who has long had such themes on her mind, says a New York Times article that recounts the enormous influence and popularity of this film in the home country, where it outdid Barbie, and beyond. It has reportedly done quite well in France: though the critical response is only an AlloCiné 3.2 (64%), the French spectators score is a whopping 4.3 (86%). It's one of Italy's ten all-time highest grossing films, but not only that: it's become a tool of instruction and debate nation-wide. It touches a nerve. Patriarchy is alive and well in Italy but the public is now ready to look hard at that.

    It's useless therefore to say this movie is extremely harsh and crude, and beside the point: its account of poor women's postwar daily lives is detailed, and beside that, it's also frequently funny. More debatable, however, is its plotline's manipulative side. Delia (Cortellesi's character) forms a bond with Black American Occupation forces MP William (Yonv Joseph) by restoring to him the only family photo he has, which is like gold for him, and he offers to help her any way she wants. This sets him up as a deus ex machina, permitting Delia to save Marcella from Giulio and thus from the cycle of abuse she has been locked into for so long. (There are younger kids coming up.)

    This film is more editorializing than art, but quality nonetheless went into its making. The presence of the excellent Valerio Mastandrea as evil husband Ivano points to a cast that's fine all down the line. Exterior street scenes likewise show a meticulous historical accuracy that permeates the film, and the many minor characters populating those scenes with their pervasive Roman dialect are hilarious and spot-oh. A score consisting of blatantly contemporary songs helps underline the tongue-in-cheek anachronism of the whole concept of the film. There's something positively Brechtian. You can't look away for a second, or be lulled into identification or get lost in the fiction. Every minute is a message steeped in specificity, the final one being the day when women first got the vote in Italy and turned out en masse. This is a new type of film, not one we may have the appetite for much more of, but one extremely effective for now. It will be interesting to see if There's Still Tomorrow makes any waves on these shores as it has in France.

    C'è ancora domnani/There's Still Tomorrow, 118 mins., debuted at Rome Film Festival Oct. 18, 2023, in Italian cinemas from Oct. 26 and was showered with awards. French theatrical release Mar. 13, 2024 (AlloCiné scores 3.2 press, 4.3 spectators). Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center (May 30-Jun. 6, 2024). Showtimes at the Walter Reade Theater:
    Thursday, May 30 at 4:00pm
    Monday, June 3 at 6:00pm
    Thursday, June 6 at 8:45pm

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-02-2024 at 07:39 PM.

  7. #7
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    Visual poem of a doomed new generation on Rome's outskirts

    Speaking of his landmark early film Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklter wrote in theGuardian in 2019, "Teenage life is more like you’re looking for the party, looking for something cool, the endless pursuit of something you never find, and even if you do, you never quite appreciate it." This is the situation Alain Parroni captures in spades with his colorful, partly abstract debut feature An Endless Sunday/Una sterminata domenica. Only these three kids, the dark, handsome Alex (Enrico Bassetti*), whose nineteenth birthday it is when things begin, his hyperactive punkish younger pal Kevin ("Ke," Zackari Delmas), and their recessive, braided, tattooed friend (girlfriend of both?) Brenda (Federica Valentini) come from the impoverished outskirts of contemporary Rome, and they're not middle class, and the have no future. They have only their youth, which they feel slipping away.

    This explains the air of psychedelic violence that pervades the opening, when the kids' little car gets a flat. This is also to introduce us to the acid-trippy cinematography of Andrea Benjamin Manenti, whose rich use of nature and dialogue closeups has been compared to the films of Terrence Malick. The kids are the stars, especially the boys, but the images are the ultimate stars. After all, as Catherine Bray says in her Variety review, these teens are "nihilistic" and "struggle to shape a sense of identity in a world that doesn’t seem to have much to offer them." Deborah Young points out in The Film Verdict this film provides "dazzling camerawork" and an "exceptional trio of teenage actors" but they "dangle from a weak narrative thread." That is Parroni's choice.

    Things do happen, of course, and often very fast. They go mockingly into central, historic Rome to celebrate Alex's birthday. Brenda turns out to be pregnant. Alex starts working for rough German minimal farmer Domenico (Lars Rudolph), an uneasy relationship. Alex and Kevin come into conflict over Brenda. They see Brenda's grandma in the projects (it's not clear where they sleep). There is scavenging and theft. There is a party. Alex is provided with a rifle and may use it. But especially in the case of Kevin life seems to be a matter of pugnacious gesturing and poses. He and this film remind one of the snarling punk boys in the grainy black and white stills of the iconic American, Paris-resident photographer William Klein (1926-2022), who also made some films, and who defined the raucous, ugly-beautiful 1995 new imagery of a whole century.

    William Klein is one connection. Another that has been mentioned is Larry Clark's 1995 Kids (a feature from an already famous still photographer of "nihilistic" (speed freak) nowhere (Tulsa) youth, and Gregg Araki's gay, humorous, defiant age-of-AIDS Nineties desperation celebrations like The Doom Generation. An Endless Sunday is even more empty and desperate - and beautiful than any of these, less naturalistic than Clark, less structured than Araki, but akin to them.

    A comparison-link that is less favorable for this film is the French cinema of the Banlieue of which there are many examples from the Nineties to today, from Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine to gangster-gang war films by Jean-François Richet and Pierre Morel like Ma 6-T va crack-er or District B-13 or Ladj Ly's admired Les Misérables. While playing with gangster or sociological genres, these films set in the doomed projects in minority outskirts of Paris and other French cities depict a lively, highly structured social milieu and have lots of characters and layers.

    Parroni's Endless Sunday has none of that, or the action of Kids or The Doom Generation.. It is an endless kaleidoscopic visual poem, and sometimes a sonic and visual scream, that apart the German farmer's grumpiness and the grandma's superstitions, and the lipstick-kissing of ancient Roman statues, has little overt connection with society or a world outside. A metaphor for the disconnectedness is Alex's accidental submerging of his cellphone so it only squeaks and croaks; and a finale that mixes car and motorcycle. At some point we realize that there is not only little action, but the action there is, is hard to read. Enthusiasts will love An Endless Sunday to death, but many will instantly loathe it. Nonetheless this is a cry, a scream, a song of abandoned Italian youth that in its own unique way updates Pasolini and his iconic Rome street kids books Ragazzi di Vita and Una Vita Violenta (A Violent Life) and his classic first film of aimless men Accattone (1961). That was a long time ago. And this is the way it is now. Parroni represents the new generation. This wasn't the easiest to take, but was the most radical and original film in Lincoln Center's 2024 Open Roads Italian film series. Original music by Shiro Sagisu.

    An Endless Sunday/Una sterminata domenica,115 mins., debuted at Venice in the Orizzoni section (Special Jury Prize; FIPRESCI Prize) Sept. 1, 2023. It also showed at TIFF (Toronto) Sept 9, 2023. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center (May 30-Jun. 6, 2024). Showtimes at the Walter Reade Theater:
    Sunday, June 2 at 1:00pm – Q&A with Alain Parroni

    * His intro internet page has clips of the film.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-03-2024 at 07:15 AM.

  8. #8
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    Jul 2002
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    Learning city ways

    "Elena Ferrante's Lenuccia and Lila finally make out," says an Italian Letterboxd contributor. "A gentleman three seats away from me yawned during the straight sex scene, so did I," says another. Leet's start here. We are after all far from the fifties world of Cesare Pavsse, which this movie is said to be "loosely" based on. As Lorenzo Ciofani's Italian review explains, Pavese "isn't particularly present in Italian films," and this third feature by Laura Lucchetti, based on the titular story of a three-novella collection that won Pavese the Strega Prize in 1950 and "rather than an update, gives it a contemporary reading that explores the text with the ambition of going beyond."

    Set in Turin in 1938, the film follows 17-year-old new-in-town dressmaker Ginia (Yile Yara Vianello) as she finds herself falling for artists’ model Amelia (Deva Cassel, daughter of Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci) and falling in with Amelia’s party-going cohort. She tries to make sense of her burgeoning attraction to Amelia, despite the disapproval of her older brother Severino (TV star Nicolas Maupas), a factory worker.

    Lucchetti presents us with a somewhat meandering; episodic film in pale colors and natural light very much focused on recreating the group of people Ginia (Yile Yara Vianello) encounters through Amelia (Deva Cassel), her home life with her brother the operaio Severino (Nicolas Maupas), and her job at the downtown atelier and its severe lady in charge Signora Gemma (Anna Bellato). The various painters come and go. One of them at her choice, Guido (Alessandro Piavani), relieves Ginia of her virginity. Lucchetti adds twists not in Pavese: the sex scenes, of course, and Ginia's success and then firing by her boss.

    Sometimes this seems to be about scheduling. Ginia is often late because she's hanging out with the wild artist types, or with Amelia, and she fails to deliver the wddding dress she's been honored by being assigned to do, and this is why she gets fired. But then, as Amelia's syphilis is cured, Ginia gets rehired.

    Visually this film is very nice, and that includes the period look and the handsome young people; one wondered why Severino had to be so handsome. But Lucchetti is interested in the look of things, and she handles that very well. There's some doubt whether she captures a mood as well as Pavese does, or whether including some more graphic details - including hints of the presence of fascism, totally ignored by the writer as Lucchetti pointed out in the NIC Q&A - add anything to the intensity and subtlety of experience depicted here. A lot of the natural-light scenes, however realistic for a time when electricity was in short supply, appear dim on the screen: the impression left is of youth and beauty that are a bit faded and distant. But we are grateful for this sensitive and careful effort to show us an iconic Cesare Pavese novella. He is one of Italy's great ones.

    The Beautiful Summer/aLa bella estate, 111 mins., debuted at Locarno Aug. 4, 2023, also showing at Chicago, Denver, Lyons. Italian theatrical release, Aug. 24. For the US, A Film Movement release. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center (May 30-Jun. 6, 2024). Showtimes at the Walter Reade Theater:
    Friday, May 31 at 6:00pm – Q&A with Laura Luchetti

    Monday, June 3 at 8:45pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-01-2024 at 10:17 PM.

  9. #9
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    Jul 2002
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    I TOLD YOU SO/TE L'AVEVO DETTO (Ginevra Elkann 2023)



    In Rome, on edge

    The Italian film website "Sentieri Selvaggi" (Wild Pathways) points to a trend in Italian treatments of Rome as a cinematic background lately:
    A section of Italian cinema seems to have realized that it no longer makes sense to stage Rome in a clean, simple, naked manner. It does not matter if it is in an apocalyptic key like Virzì's Siccità/Dry, or like the grotesque and monstrous Vietnam of Castellitto's Enea, or even like the Capitoline moon landing of An Endless Sunday/Una sterminata domenica by newcomer Parroni. The city is filtered and transfigured, every reference distorted and rethought, as in the video game open world of Gipo Fasano's Le Eumenidi ("The Eumenides"). For her second film as director entitled Te l'avevo detto/I told you so, Ginevra Elkann decides to envelop Rome and its protagonists in a sandy cloud that grows and weighs down the atmosphere as the minutes pass. Director of photography Vladan Radovic creates a striking visual concept, playing with ochre tones and various close-ups drenched in sweat. This particular visual ecosystem goes perfectly with the pastel color palette that characterizes the universe of Pupa, by far the most iconic character in the film...
    For this sophomore effort as director, Ginevra ElKann, the London-born granddaughter of Gianni Agnelli who has done a lot of producing, has assembled a gathering of stars including Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Valeria Golino, Alba Rohrwacher, Riccardo Scamarcio, Greta Scacchi, and Danny Huston and gives us yet another tale, or collection of intertwined tales, of Rome under siege, this time in what the blurb calls "an apocalyptic January heatwave." Everyone is "al borde de un ataque de nervios," as Almodóvar would put it. You may simply enjoy watching all these thespians do their thing, with very little apparent restraint from the director. But while there is much that is amusing and distracting here it all adds up to much ado about nothing, a frantic effort to hold our attention when most of the characters are more shticks than people.

    A Letterboxd comment: "I've never seen people wear so much clothing in a heat wave." This is something hard to forget as we watch. It's supposed to be 120º, and they're wearing leggings and layers and cardigans. The hazy, pastel look, a stylized way of evoking extreme heat (and maybe also pending apocalypse), is striking and beautiful and a thing in itself - so much so that it may be all we remember when all the excitement has subsided and the closing credits roll.

    The TIFF summary describes Gianna (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) as "honing a decade-long obsession "amid the bustling streets and piazzas," with her ex–best friend Pupa (Valeria Golino, described in Cineeuropa review as "fully Botoxed"), an aging, bankrupt porn star from the Eighties "desperately clutching to her golden days" who is headed for a special occasion where she will be celebrated by her many fans and perform. Apparently angry and jealous, Gianna follows her. Meanwhile Gianna depends - or "mostly codepends" on her "sweet daughter" Mila (Sofia Panizzi), who "dotingly" cares for a "housebound older woman (Marisa Borani) while herself trapped in a cycle of bingeing and purging . The food delivery guy, an attractive young person of color (not identified in cast lists), is unaware of any problem and is attracted to Mila and longing for a kiss. Gianna also depends on her priest, Father Bill (Danny Huston), a half-Italian, half-American former heroin addict, whose sister (Greta Scacchi) has come to town from America with an urn of their mother's ashes to bury them in the cemetery she wanted. After they realize what a "stronza" she was, they decide to dispose of her ashes in more summary fashion.

    Father Bill also "is a true piece of work," the Toronto summary goes on, though he remains a committed sponsor in recovery to Caterina (Alba Rohrwacher), an artist struggling with alcoholism, who recently lost custody of her little boy to her heartbroken ex (Riccardo Scamarcio). She kidnaps the boy and spends the day with him and then there is, surprisingly, a warm reunion with her estranged husband at the end. Note: she has not, as she claims, stopped drinking, even this day. Everyone ends peaceful, or dead, and we can go home, none the wiser, and another operatic Italian film has ended.

    I Told You So/Te l'avevo detto 100 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept. 8, 2023. The Match Factory has picked it up for US release. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center (May 30-Jun. 6, 2024). Showtimes at the Walter Reade Theater:
    Friday, May 31 at 9:00pm – Q&A with Ginevra Elkann
    Wednesday, June 5 at 8:45 PM
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-01-2024 at 12:20 PM.

  10. #10
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    Jul 2002
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    LUBO (Giorgio Diritti 2023)



    Important issue lost in a meandering tale

    Giorgio Diritti film's I've previously reviewed in Italian series are L'uomo che verrà/The Man Who Will Comel (2009), about a WWII German massacre, the self-discovery piece Un giorno devi andare/A Day Will Come (2013), and Hidden Away/Volevo nascondermi (2020) about Italy's most famous "naive" artist and featuring Elio Germano. These show a tendency to try quite different things, and to go for powerful issues. This time he finds a good one, but it gets lost along the way. He turns to the story of an itinerant artist of Yenish descent called Lubo Mos er (Franz Rogowski) whose children become victims of a eugenics-influenced Pro Juventute’s Kinder der Landstrasse scheme while he is away drafted into the Swiss army defending its order as WWII looms.. He sets out to find them. Franz Rogowski is typically arresting in the role of Lubo.

    Italian director, German actor, Yenish theme. Adapted from Mario Cavatore’s 2004 novel Il seminatore which, one hopes, makes more sense than this ridiculously meandering film, which loses its points about the terrible wrong of eugenics-inspired child-stealing in favor of a portrait of the strange Lubo, and cannot seem to figure out how to end - running at least 40 minutes overtime while Lubo checks in and out of hotels and gets in and out of trouble.

    Somewhere past midway we see Lubo endlessly search through index cards trying to find what has happened to his children. But while that futile effort may be the heart of the film in a way, it's just an incident. First, when he learns his children are goine and his wife has died, he deserts from the Swiss army guards, and joins up with a shady Jewish trafficker called Bruno Reiter (Joel Basman) to cross the border, and then kills him for his car (which he has to teach himself to drive) and his identity. As part of this process, he smashes the man's head in, which the director and cinematographer Benjamin Maier kindly show from a distance, in the dark . He discovers the car is loaded with a great store of valuable jewelry. And from that much follows, taking us far from the search for lost children and redress of wrong practices.

    As Bruno Reiter, getting a pal to switch his photo in Reiter's passport, Lubo puts on the manner and clothes of a high liver, and seeks out the authorities responsible for the disappearance of his and other Yennish children. Following the advice of a clan elder, he begins serially seducing well-off, putatively racist women. First comes the well-connected gallerist Elsa (Noémi Besedes) and then banker’s wife Klara (Cecilia Steiner) falls for him. Klara gets pregnant with Lubo’s baby. As Jessica Kiang says in her Variety Venice review, these serial seductions of women he detests are nothing but "a grossly protracted form of rape."

    It's not that the film is pretending Lubo is an admirable person or that his revenge in this form is justified: it's that everything that slowly unfolds involving Lubo, now Bruno, takes us far away from the cruel and immoral Swiss "Kinder der Landstrasse" ("Children of the Road") program this story highlights, the starting point and endpoint - the point, one would think - of this tale.

    A FilmStart review explains that the film "unmasks a shocking system that was intended to eradicate traveling peoples like the Yenish by simply assimilating their offspring into 'normal' society (not to mention the pedophile involvement of leading officials). But in its noticeably inflated running time, the drama meanders through several decades in such a monotonous and emotionally muted way that the unquestionably important message is rarely able to unfold its full effect, despite the high-class leading actor."

    Franz Rogowski is excellent to play complex, partly unsympathetic protagonists, as we've seen in Christian Petzold's Transit and Ira Sachs' Passages. But he can never quite get a handle on Lubo, because the film can't. And nearly every critic would agree that Lubo's screenplay is overblown in a leaden way. On and on it goes, and never knows when it should end was forty minutes ago. The tendentious score by Marco Biscarini announces dozens of climaxes that never come.

    Lubo, 170 mins., debuted Sept. 7, 2023 at Venice, also showing at Zurich, London, chicago, and Thessaloniki. A Shadow Distribution release. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center (May 30-Jun. 6, 2024). Showtimes at the Walter Reade Theater:
    Saturday, June 1 at 4:00pm – Q&A with Giorgio Diritti cancelled due to director's illness.
    Thursday, June 6 at 2:00pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-02-2024 at 06:05 AM.

  11. #11
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    Jul 2002
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    Filmed on location in Spanish with first-time actors by Italian directr Tommaso Santmbrogio, it was reviewed at Venice by Joran Mintzer for Hollywood Reporter.

    The plot can been summarized as three stories: Her husband having died in the Angolan Civil War back in the late 1980s, Milagros survives selling peanut cones on the street and spends her days listening to the radio and reading old letters. Frank and Alain nine-year-old best friends go to school and dream of emigrating to the U.S. to become Baseball players (they are on the local little league team), but Frank’s mother is talking about moving to Miami to join the rest of her family, which would oblige Frank to leave his best friend behind. A couple, Edith and Alex, are threatened with separation when Edith can emigrate to Europe for work and Alex is involved in his drama school teaching.

    Tommaso Santambrogio’s debut feature is a stunningly photographed black-and-white portrait of contemporary Cuba, capturing three disparate tales of exile with an outsider’s gaze. Each of its constituent stories deals with Cubans planning to leave the country, yearning to leave the country, or affected by someone else’s decision to leave the country, conveying a sense of life in the island nation as always caught between here and there, those who are gone and those who remain. Strikingly and precisely lensed by Lorenzo Casadio Vannucci and performed by a remarkable cast of non-professional actors, Oceans Are the Real Continents is a disarmingly beautiful and moving film about the complex realities of life in Cuba today.

    Oceans Are the Real Continents/Los océanos son los verdaderos continentes, 119 mins., a Film Movement release, opened in the Venice Days sidebar Sept. 2023. Released theatrically in Italy Apr. 8, 2024. It was shown recently at Miami. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center (May 30-Jun. 6, 2024). Showtimes at the Walter Reade Theater:
    Sunday, June 2 at 4:00pm – Q&A with Tommaso Santambrogio
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-27-2024 at 08:55 AM.

  12. #12
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    EL PARAÍSO (Enrico Maria Artale 2023)



    Bonds that destroy

    Edoardo Pesce, who played Simone, the terrifying thug in Matteo Garrone's 2018 Dogman, is even more central to Enrico Maria Artale's strange El Paraiso. This time tragic family dysfunction is the theme. Pesce's character Julio Cesar lives on the water, near Fiumicino, on the outskirts of Rome with his mother (Margarita Rosa de Francisco), Colombian and illegal, and they survive by cutting drugs for their coke dealer/importer friend Lucio (Gabriel Montesi). Then Ines (Maria del Rosario), a young first-time drug mule, arrives and stays with them. Julio's attraction to her spurs a rift in his cloying bond with his mother - a tie the filmmaker has called "complex, morbid, full of love but full of obsession at the same time" - and then a sudden tragedy leads to Julio's decline and fall. We leave him in a limbo that is more a hell than the "Paradise" of the title.

    When the film begins Julio and his mother go dancing. The mixture of Spanish and Italian they speak heightens the sense of their private world and their confused relationship: they seem almost on a date, and at their best moments, though this cannot be healthy, they are like lovers rather than mother and son. When a man cuts in and dances with the mother, it feels as if a rift, a jealousy is threatened. The mother is dominant, a little crazy, and drug-addicted. She is not quite of the world; she is in her own world. Her rug-chewing performance is breathtaking and operatic, and the simulation of a native Spanish-speaker by this Italian actress is convincing (and won a best actress award in the Orizzonti section at Venice), though Edoardo Pesce's more imploded turn winds up feeling more convincing and solid, even though his character is lost, as it must be, since ultimately this is all about him. This is a striking and original film, hovering uneasily on the edges of realism and lurid expressionist nightmare.

    To say this film is "realistic" seems misleading. It has an intense physicality and grubbiness (to put it mildly) but it goes far enough into the extremes of psychological dysfunction to skirt the edges of nightmare: the garish pastels of Francesco Di Giacomo's intense cinematography heighten this effect. Its main characters live in a bubble. In her Screen Daily Venice review Nikki Baughan suggests the film "explores just how isolating the immigrant experience can be." Friends I watched this with at Lincoln Center's Open Roads Italian series compared El Paraiso with David Michôd's great Australian film Animal KIngdom, and to compare Jacki Weaver with Rosa de Francisco would would be interesting: but the two films are opposites. Here there is no real family, only a warped Oedipal bond.

    El Paraiso is drawn dangerously over the top right from the beginning, but it doesn't allow you to look away. It excels is in its grubby physicality. Julio is waiting outside a women's toilet for his mother in the opening scene. This side of the film most shows in its vivid depiction of the ugly sides - emphatically plural - of being a drug mule. When Julio gets on a plane, naturally he would have never flown before - he has lived a deeply restricted existence; and his extreme behavior brings out every discomfort you may have felt about flyinrg. The discomfort of his existence with his mother is brought out in multiple ways. Earlier, he repeatedly lies in bed watching masturbatory porn on his laptop, but always has to clap it shut to hide it from his mother. His mother ruthlessly attacks him for his furtive visits to local prostitutes. Physical events stand out. Riding too fast in their motor boat with Ines, the mother's hat flies suddenly off. Returning from an outing with Ines, he and she have traded jackets and her too tight one rips out the shoulder as they climb into the house like kids on a romp. Most grubbily and horrifyingly physical of all is what happens to some ashes in an urn.

    All this is far too deliberately unappetizing and repellant to be seen as simply naturalistic, and this film not for everyone. Even when one is impressed one may be mentally holding everything very much at arms length. But if Rosa de Francisco's admired performance seems too operatic, Pesce's is memorable and convincing. Casting someone so solid for the role of a weak, lost soul, by avoiding the obvious, proves very effective.

    El Paraiso, 106 mins., debuted at Venice in the Horizons section Sept. 3, 2023, where it won the Best Actress, Best Screenplay, and Young Cinema awards. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series (May 31-Jun. 6, 2024) at Lincoln Center. Showtimes:
    Saturday, June 1 at 1:00pm – Q&A with Enrico Maria Artale
    Tuesday, June 4 at 6:00pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-05-2024 at 09:31 AM.

  13. #13
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    Jul 2002
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    ANOTHER END (Pietro Messina 2024)



    Piero Messina, 2024, Italy/U.K./France, 129m
    English and Spanish with English subtitles
    North American Premiere
    A melancholic, philosophical take on science fiction, Piero Messina’s ensemble drama contemplates a futuristic twist on the afterlife and its implications for those whom the deceased have left behind. Gael García Bernal stars as Sal, who has recently lost his partner Zoe in a car accident. When Sal’s sister Ebe (Bérénice Bejo) suggests he use a new technology to transplant Zoe’s memories into the mind and body of a stranger (Renate Reinsve), he finds himself confronted with a new opportunity to say goodbye to his love—but at what price? A rare blend of high-concept and deep feeling, Another End is a moving work on human connection in an increasingly virtual world.

    Another End,129 mins., debuted Feb. 17, 2024 at the Berlinale, Italian theatrical opening Mar. 21. [B]Screened for this review as part of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema at Lincoln Center (May 30-Jun. 6, 2024). Showtimes:
    Friday, May 31 at 2:30pm – Q&A with Piero Messina
    Tuesday, June 4 at 8:30pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-26-2024 at 03:12 PM.


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