Friday, June 8, 2012

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2012

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema
June 8-14, 2012
Film Society of Lincoln Center

Director Ermanno Olmi (right)
If there’s one must-see film during the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual June series, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema at the Walter Reade Theater, it’s the latest by master Ermanno Olmi, whose The Cardboard Village is another example of his extraordinary yet simple artistry. Since his early ‘60s breakthroughs Il Posto and The Fiances—and even in his biggest hit, the overlong The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)—Olmi’s humane portraits of everyday people have always been understated and subtle; The Cardboard Village—87 minutes of not a frame wasted—shows that the soon-to-be 81-year-old Olmi (due another career retrospective—the last one in New York was a decade ago!) remains relevant.  

Among other Open Roads features, topical relevance rears its head in Terraferma, Emanuele Crialese’s intermittently touching fable that tackles the controversial theme of immigration through the eyes of a fishing family whose decision to fish two helpless victims out of the sea turns them into criminal abettors. Although the movie displays the beauty of the waters surrounding Sicily, Terraferma’s loveliest images are of Donatella Finacchiaro’s eternally sad eyes, which speak volumes as the family’s gentle but firm matriarch.

Diaz: Don't Clean Up This Blood
A far more successful political film, Diaz: Don’t Clean Up This Blood shockingly recreates the Genoa police raid on protestors during the 2001 G8 Summit. Clinically showing how law enforcement leaders covered up the brutality—even as it was still happening—director Daniele Vaccari’s blood-soaked but gripping visualization stars a large and first-rate international cast of unknowns that give Diaz a realism that’s perfect for its hard-hitting subject matter.

More frivolous is Ferzan Ozpetek’s one-note ghost tale, Magnificent Presence, about a young actor whose new Roman apartment is haunted by the spirits of long-dead 1930s performers. Meandering pleasantly for 100 minutes until revealing the consequences of fascism and the spectre of Mussolini, the movie ends by desperately trying to jam Meaning into frothy comedy. And Escort in Love, despite a nicely modulated comic performance by Paolo Cortellesi as a suddenly widowed upper-crust mom who turns to escorting to raise needed cash, is too silly to contemplate any more than we do here.

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