Open Roads: New Italian Cinema
pen Roads is a refreshing opportunity to drink in the works of modern Italian filmmakers operating at the top of their game. Aside from this showcase organized by the Lincoln Center, few, if any, of these films will see a stateside distribution, which is a shame, for each offers an intimate counterpoint to the fistula of blockbusters that will certainly hollow out the minds of American audiences throughout the coming summer.
One thing is true of all these movies: in each, character takes precedence over story. Or perhaps, more accurately, the story flows from the characters as they navigate their respective cinematic landscapes. This approach is essentially the antithesis of the Hollywood model, where story drives action and conflicts are always resolved before the credits roll. And though the Italian construction is not necessarily more rewarding, these films come as a welcome refreshment, like a Dixie cup’s worth of lemon ice on a day full of summer sun. Abondanza.
L’amico di famiglia
[Dir: Paolo Sorrentino, 2006]
See Stylus' full review by Paolo Cabrelli here.
[Dir: Laura Muscardin, 2006]
Billo is another patiently observed and articulated character study, where director Laura Muscandin assumes the gaze of an outsider as she examines themes of culture, heritage, and identity. Billo is a very enjoyable and mostly honest film, even if it does (mercifully) pull its cultural clashing punches.
See Stylus' full review by Nancy Keefe Rhodes here.
[Dir: Roberto Ando, 2006]
Viaggio Segreto is engaging for two reasons. Watching Leo assaulted by bygone visions and torrents of emotional memories is a panic attack in the flanks. Also, there’s this really strange, really great psychosexual tension between he and his sister Ale (Claudia Gerini) that operates as some unspoken manifestation of the ramifications of the siblings’ very disturbed memories. Viaggio Segreto is a solidly conceived and executed film about a man who is forced to come to terms with certain realities he’d rather not embrace, and how he survives the engagement.
Le Rose del deserto
[Dir: Mario Monicelli, 2006]
These soldiers are a scraggily bunch of crotch-scratchers and womanizers, disorganized and irreverent, whose chemistry spawns an absurdist whirligig, at first nearly slapstick and eventually Joseph Heller-esque. Like many superb critics of war, Monicelli suggests that perhaps the only means of enduring slaughter is to detatch oneself from the emotional trauma it instigates, and to replace the negativity with a dark and goofy perspective on the human condition. And though Le Rose del deserto ends on a note so bitter your guts twist hard, the majority of the picture is refreshingly humanistic and compassionate. It does the buff’s heart good to know that time and age have not dulled Sr. Monicelli.
[Dir: Angelo Longoni, 2007]
The movie is straightforward in that it linearly details the most important events of the subject’s life, beginning with the death by plague of his father and grandfather, through the bipolar trajectory of his artistic career and personal life, all the way to a painful and lonely death, via malaria or diphtheria, on the seaweed infested fluid of the now polluted and over-populated Italian shores. A fitting departure, no doubt. Death stalks Caravaggio throughout, and provides him with both social motivation (“got nothing to lose”) and artistic inspiration (“I’ve seen the brink”). Caravaggio drags a bit thanks to its sensationalistic depiction of the artist’s penchant for tavern and whore-hopping, but sails in its articulation of genius mania cum output inspired equally by the carnal and the divine. For all intents and purposes, the picture is rather successful in its ability to communicate Caravaggio’s internal torment, which simultaneously sustained and depleted him.
Open Roads: New Italian Cinema runs from June 6-14 at the Walter Reade Theater in Manhattan.
By: Frank Rinaldi
Published on: 2007-06-05