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Diverso da chi? (2009)
Argentero, still promising
True, Luca Argentero is the only reason to see this rushed, thoughtless "romantic comedy" I'm sure he's on the verge of something truly important and I, for one, wish him the best. But here, the elements were perfect for an elegant, witty comedy with topical themes and all the rest but, as it is usually the case, there is a lack of real commitment. After a very promising opening with a truly romantic kiss between Argentero and the terrific Filippo Negri, everything is down hill from there. The script needed nurturing and maturing. Claudia Gerini's character is totally unbelievable and that is a problem, a really big problem because it just doesn't let you connect. I won a bet however, I was sure Claudia Gerini was going to disrobe on the first half an hour of the film and I was right. Lovely to look at but dramatically absurd.
Notting Hill (1999)
Cute but Empty
Julia Roberts playing a famous American movie star wasn't quite a stretch and yet it felt unconvincing. The humor works the second you're seeing it but then it vanishes into thin air. It feels self conscious and forced. Once all that is said, "Notting Hill" emerges as a pleasant enough improbable romantic comedy in the "Four Weddings And A Funeral" mold without ever reaching the smart, disarming charm of its model. Hugh Grant is lovely in a part destined to seem Hugh Grantish with all the clipped bit of nonsense that have made Grant a household name. The quirky friends and bizarre room mates are the questionable salt and pepper of this romantic tale. I found myself smiling, getting impatient and enjoying it, all at the same time. I'm too much of a Preston Sturgess fan to be able to sit through a modern comedy in the way I did with "The Lady Eve" for instance. My favorite moment: The Horse and Hound sequence. Very funny. If you've never seen a Preston Sturgess, Ernst Lubitch or Billy Wilder comedy, you may like "Notting Hill" much more than I did.
Advise & Consent (1962)
A Fun Didactic Old Thing
So condescending, to everyone. Washington socialite Gene Tirney comes into the public gallery of Congress escorting two diplomat's wives, the British and the French. She gives the French wife a lesson into the workings of Congress, the French lady doesn't seem to know anything about the American executive branch or understand it. Why didn't the French sue? Or women for that matter. Behind the camera there is a man with a tyrannic brain a misogynistic eye and a very old sensibility, if any. What's fun about this politically incorrect tired tale is precisely the incorrectness, the melodramatic turn and Charles Laughton. Betrayal and conspiracy in the corridors of power has always been a favorite subject from Shakespeare and beyond but here there is a massive problem and I can't decide whether it takes itself too seriously or not seriously enough. See it by yourself and enjoy a terrific Laughton.
Lascia perdere, Johnny! (2007)
Charming Road To Nowhere
Faustino is the only son of a widow. That, in Italy, is one of the reasons why someone could be exempt from military service. Faustino finds himself at this crossroads when we meet him. He plays guitar with a band but needs to transform his amateurish musical endeavors into something profitable to be accepted as the only financial support to his mother. Augusto enters the scene, a musician carrying the baggage of a dusty reputation - his biggest claim to fame was a brief affair with Ornella Vanoni some years before - The important thing however is that Augusto - who will open an unexpected door to Faustino and rename him Johnny - is played by Fabrizio Bentivoglio who also directs and writes with a willful laid back style. The road chosen is uncertain and uneven to say the least but there is a genuine charm taking over the unfocused yarn that it's immediately contagious. He counts with the valuable collaboration of some very good actors playing charmingly over the top characters. Lina Sastri, adorable as Faustino's mother. Valeria Golino as the local hairdresser that becomes a groupie and Faustino's romantic fantasy plus Avion Travel's Toni and Peppe Servillo. I left the theater with a smile on my face. That for me makes the whole thing more than worth it.
The Darker Side Of A Darkish Comedy
Just under 90 minutes that's all it takes to retell this Anthony Shaffer comedy of deception and disguise. The characters are not quite the same, this ones allow the darker side of their nature take the upper-hand. The new house is a cold technological monstrosity instead of the country manor of Laurence Olivier. In Harold Pinter's hand and brain everything is colder, darker and Shaffer's original comedy risks to become Ira Levin's "Deathtrap" at times. Michael Caine and Jude Law are inches away from a kiss here and that's a bizarre turn of events. True, Jude Law has a sexual presence that he carries as if he didn't know was there. Everything he says has a sexual connotation whether consciously or unconsciously. His Milo Tindle looks decidedly post coital. A bit undone, unwashed. Kenneth Brannagh conducts his duet with gusto but limited not just by the natural setting of the play but by the memory of the Manckiewicz original. Caine and Law make a fun, dirty pair and it's the power of their performances that makes this very short version appear even shorter. I could have stay a few more minutes with this two. That, I suppose, it's a form of giving it a thumbs up.
Don't Look Now (1973)
Shocking Red December
The Italian title of this Nicolas Roeg's classic is "A Venetian Shocking Red December" yep. I had seen this film dubbed into Italian, years ago. I was taken by the look and the atmosphere I remember being unnerved but I was appalled by the acting, specially Julie Christie's - one of my favorites of all time. Yesterday I saw the film again in its original English version. My goodness, what a difference! The film is even more frightening that I remembered. The atmosphere is asphyxiating. You can actually smell the rotting stench of the most beautiful city in the world. The ending leaves you breathless and the acting, well, listening to the actors real voices is another experience altogether. The pain and sudden burst of hope in Julie Christie is moving, very moving and very unsettling. Sutherland, as usual, is magnificent. The film, other than a solid cult status, remains virtually unknown by the public at large. "Don't Look Now" is a buried treasure that is bound to be re discovered and to all my countrymen, a piece of advise: avoid dubbed movies at all cost.
L'onorevole Angelina (1947)
Anna Magnani as a rebel with a cause
A stunning surprise. Luigi Zampa, the director, is not one of the names you usually hear when "the best Italian cinema" is discussed and yet, look at this movie. From the opening sequence in which Angelina and her husband spend a sleepless night trying to find a way to feed their children, the film grabs you with a truth that's part neo-realistic part pure poetry. Anna Magnani is sensational, allowing her character to wear all those elements that made Magnani famous - feisty, truthful and strong - with a soft, loving side that makes the character one of the most endearing of her illustrious career. As a trivia note, the young romantic lead is played by Franco Zeffirelli.How strange that now, 60 years later, nobody in Italy could make a film with the artistry and the humanity of this one. Framed by a poet told by someone who truly understood the language of cinema. Shame on me, a Roman from Rome who hadn't seen this film. I bet we're legions. I urge you, rent it, buy it, watch it.
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Can you imagine? Me, a film lover since the age of six, hadn't seen "Singing In The Rain" until last night. I had read and heard so much about it over the years that I knew I was going to be disappointed. As a musical I've never seen anything so perfectly "in tune" I can see how many directors have been influenced by the soul of this gorgeous movie. I've seen even Federico Fellini here. The tap routine with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor is so energizing that I wanted to see it again and again. The fantasy number with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse is breathtaking, breathtaking! How extraordinary to see Debiee Reynolds going through the contagious (Good morning!Good morning!) I had seen her a few nights before as Grace's mother in "Will and Grace" She hasn't lost her zest. I'm sure I'll be seeing this movie many times and I intend to show it to very young people from the post MTV generation and I'm betting with myself that they're going to love it. Greatness is timeless.
Mio fratello è figlio unico (2007)
Where Are The Ideas?
I rushed to see this movie, with Elio Germano, perhaps the best Italian actor of his generation, and Riccardo Scamarcio, the heartthrob of the moment. I got upset about the rejection from the snobbish Cannes Festival and I wanted to see the film by myself. Now, after having seen it, unfortunately, I have to agree with the Cannes decision. The film is a tired rehash of other books/films/TV done indifferently and boringly with two saving graces: Elio Germano's and Angela Finocchiaro's performances. The rest is, quite frankly, unendurable. The film felt long, long, long and I got more and more impatient and eventually angry with the whole thing. The Italian cinema that once was a power force of inspiring themes and ideas seems to have arrived to a total dead stop. The artists, I feel, with something new to say, like Libero Di Rienzo - have you seen his "Sangue" with Elio Germano as well? No, I bet you haven't. It was released in secrecy and for my money, his movie had something new to say in a totally new exciting way. I fear we, in Italy, can't move forward because we're trapped in some king of structure that it's terrified of new ideas. As a consequence we have films like this one. A throw back to the past and not in a nice way. Cannes? Are you nuts?