I watched Ferzan Ozpetek’s Magnifica Presenza (Magnificent Presence) at Lincoln Center’s Open Roads: New Italian Cinema on Friday night and one thing is clear: This one’s the real deal. It’s well-written, well-directed, well-acted, funny, and most importantly, it’s exportable.
It’s a comedy, with Elio Germano (who was supposed to be but not at the screening) who plays Pietro, an aspiring actor who works in a bakery and goes on auditions. When Pietro moves into a new house he finds that the old inhabitants have not quite moved out; it’s haunted by a group of glamorous actors from the past.
Some watching the movie might decide that Pietro, who’s just recently suffered an emotional breakdown, is “seeing things” – and that the ghosts are in his mind. Pietro’s, after all, in a kind of solitary phase of his life, with a failed love affair and living alone for the first time. At his job, in the kitchen, he chatters away to his coworkers, immigrants that apparently don’t understand what he’s saying, but nod and smile anyway. Pietro must do this all the time.
I, on the other hand, believe that this is a true supernatural experience and that the relationship is beneficial to both him and the ghostly group, played by Margherita Buy, Beppe Fiorello, Vittoria Pucini, and Yusuf Antep. In one hilarious scene the ghosts get Pietro ready for an audition, doing his hair and makeup and giving him tips. The director, played in a cameo role by real life director Daniele Luchetti, is baffled over Pietro’s look, straight out of ’30s Hollywood.
I’d originally assumed that the “Magnificent Presence” in the film referred to the ghosts, but I know now that it was Pietro.
“You’ve been an important presence for us”, they told Pietro. It’s a neat twist and a clever movie with genuinely funny dialogue that I hope finds US distribution. I loved it.