Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Open Roads 2011

Marco Bellocchio's Sorelle mai

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema

June 1-8, 2011
Film Society of Lincoln Center

This year’s edition of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual survey, is led by a trio of top-notch non-fiction features. The latest by Oscar-winning director Gabriele Salvatores (Mediterraneo), 1960, cannily assembles archival footage to tell a compelling story of a family searching for its son. 71-year-old master Marco Bellocchio (whose My Mother’s Smile, Good Morning Night and Vincere highlighted recent New York Film Festivals) returns with Sorelle Mai, a personal journey into his family’s life and hometown, Bobbio. Giovanna Taviani’s Return to the Aeolian Islands lovingly explores the isles which were the settings for classics like Antonioni’s L’Avventura and Kaos, the brilliant Pirandello adaptation by the Taviani brothers (one of whom is Giovanna’s father, and the other her uncle).

Several of the fiction features take the pulse of Italian society, with mixed results. 20 Cigarettes, Aureliano Amadei’s pulse-pounding account of an anti-war filmmaker going to Iraq only to become another victim of its random violence, is as volatile and exciting as it is thought-provoking. Contrarily, Love or Slaps is Sergio Castellitto’s frantically unfunny update of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in which Castellitto and the always dependable Laura Morante play good liberal parents who are disappointed their daughter’s new boyfriend isn’t black. Working from his wife Margaret Mazzantini’s flaccid script, Castellitto never finds a consistent tone or point of view, finally just spinning his wheels. (The title’s literal translation is The Beauty of the Donkey, which makes no sense in English unless you’ve seen the movie.)

Morante and Castellitto in Love and Slaps

Director Roberta Torre reteams with her marvelous Angela star (and Bellocchio leading lady) Donatello Finocchiaro in the gentle satire Lost Kisses, in which Finocchiaro burns a hole in the screen as the opportunistic mother of a teenager (the wonderful Carla Marchese) who says that the Virgin Mary spoke to her after a new religious statue lost its head. Whatsoeverly, Giulio Manfredonia’s absurdist take on the intersection of politics, media and celebrity, dishes out as much silliness as it does satiric bulls-eyes. Think Trump or Palin in the land of Berlusconi.

The Woman of My Life, with Stefania Sandrelli as the mother of two sons in love with the same woman, is a trite updating of Gabriele Muccino’s superb The Last Kiss, which also featured Sandrelli. Despite an excellent cast and the magnetic presence of Valentina Lodovini (you definitely believe both brothers would fall for her), the movie becomes exhausting as it goes along. Happily, Giorgia Cecere’s debut, The First Assignment, is a modest, self-assured gem about a young teacher (the terrific Isabelle Ragonese) whose first job in an out of the way village doesn’t go as planned.

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