Open Roads—New Italian Cinema
June 6-12, 2013
Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York, NY
|Director Marco Bellocchio|
You can’t fault the Film Society of Lincoln Center for bringing back Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty (which was first screened during Film Comment Selects in February) as part of the latest edition of Open Roads—New Italian Cinema: this is an important, typically idiosyncratic film on a timely subject from a true cinematic master.
And since Bellocchio’s imposing drama—a razor-sharp exploration of Italy’s right to life debate (of which Terri Schiavo was the U.S. equivalent) that informs the personal, professional and religious lives of a bevy of characters—does not have a distributor, everyone should see it at the Film Society. Splendid acting by Isabelle Huppert, Toni Servillo, Maya Sansa and Alba Rohrwacher makes Dormant Beauty a highlight of a series in which a few other films take the pulse of contemporary Italy.
|Gianni Amelio's The First Man|
Open Roads’ other big directorial names are Gianni Amelio, whose The First Man, based on Albert Camus’ novel, is his first feature since 2006’s set-in-China The Missing Star, which was never shown here; and Marco Tullio Giordana, whose Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy chronicles a terrorist bombing that shook Milan (and the entire country) in 1969.
Among the other films, Susanna Nicchiarelli’s The Discovery at Dawn, a low-key time-travel story that plays like an Italian episode of The Twilight Zone, is blessed with two wonderful performances (by Margherita Buy and Nicchiarelli herself) which almost alleviate the somnambulant atmosphere. Paolo Virzi’s Every Blessed Day—an all-too-familiar story of a mismatched couple trying to start a family on its own terms—gets whatever comic and dramatic mileage it has from strong lead acting by Luca Marinelli and Thony, a singer turned refreshingly natural actress.
|Peppi Corsicato's The Face of Another|
An obvious if at times funny satire of our celebrity-saturated culture, The Face of Another never finds the right tone—the opening is stolen from Fellini, while much of the rest is farcically dragged down to early-Almodovar level, unsurprising since director Peppi Corsicato is his protégé—but in compensation there’s the genuinely exuberant comic presence of actress Laura Chiatti. Daniele Cipri’s It Was the Son, a crude black comedy-drama about a typically Sicilian family, has its cast rendering expert caricatures but cannot overcome failed attempts at Lina Wertmuller’s daring kind of simultaneous humor and horror.
Set in Sardinia’s capital Cagliari—an intentionally less than picturesque setting—Salvatore Mereu’s Pretty Butterflies is a sometimes flat-footed but often perceptive glimpse at a world in which children grow up faster than ever, mostly out of necessity and survival. Finally, Elisa Fuksas’s Nina is a beautifully shot, exquisitely framed, almost plotless drama about a young woman living in Rome while everyone else clears out for the summer. Fuksas, a former architect, displays her protagonist’s confusion and alienation through visual symbolism that nods to Antonioni, Kubrick and Greenaway without outright thievery.