I’ll make the easy assumption that my definitive “Top 10 of 2012″ lists will include Matteo Garrone’s Reality and perhaps Leonardo Di Costanzo’s L’Intervallo or Bernardo Bertolucci’s Io e Te, but I haven’t had the opportunity to see them yet, so here are the 8 that I can talk about personally. A couple of my favorites weren’t the biggest at the box office or even the biggest award winners:
- E’ Stato Il Figlio – Daniele Cipri’ – When a daughter is killed by a mafioso bullet meant for her cousin, the family is thrown into deep and desperate mourning, lessened only by the news that they are owed compensation from the government, given when an innocent victim is killed by Mafia violence. The money, which seems at first a gift from God, slowly becomes a curse, and it will be up to everyone who sees this movie to decide for himself the level of irony in the film’s title: E’ Stato Il Figlio – It Was The Son.
- Cesare deve Morire – Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani – The movie was filmed mostly in black and white and used real inmates at a real maximum security prison in Rome who were staging a production of Julius Caesar. These inmates, nearly all incarcerated for drug trafficking or organized crime activity, played all the parts in the production and used it as an opportunity to tell their own stories as well as Shakespeare’s story of Julius Caesar. This one is the mostly highly awarded of 2012.
- This Must Be The Place – Paolo Sorrentino – Sean Penn plays a bored, aging rock star that lives off his royalties in a mansion outside Dublin. When he learns that his father is dying he travels to America (on a cruise ship – he’s afraid to fly) but he arrives too late; his father has died. With little apparent thought to how it will happen, Cheyenne sets out on a road trip across America to finish his father’s life’s work – finding the Nazi that had ruined his life.
- Diaz: Non Pulire Questo Sangue – Daniele Vicari – During the G8 summit in 2001, police raided the Diaz school in Genoa, Italy, searching and beating the protesters and everyone else for more than two hours. This movie is the opposite of a “feel good” film and a lot of viewers will be (and have been) offended by the non-stop abuse of force, even if it is, according to everyone, an authentic account of what actually happened. But it can’t exactly be thought of gratuitous violence if it’s the facts; can it?
- Magnifica Presenza – Ferzan Ozpetek – Magnifica Presenza is a comedy with Elio Germano who plays Pietro, an aspiring actor working in a bakery and going 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.
- Romanzo di una Strage – Marco Tulio Giordana – The story of the Piazza Fontana bombing, it highlights the cynical manipulations and tragic consequences during Italy’s “Years of Lead”,the late 1960s and ’70s, when left and right extremists perpetrated high-profile attacks.
- La Citta’ Ideale – Luigi Lo Cascio – La Citta’ Ideale is a surprising roller coaster ride of anxiety, suspense, and laughter, and with it, Luigi Lo Cascio proves himself not only an amazing actor, but also an amazing director.
- Sette Opere di Misericordia – Gianluca De Serio – Sparse dialogue guides us through the powerful story of young Romanian Luminita who robs patients in a hospital for her gypsy “family” and survives on pilfered food. She finds Antonio (Roberto Herlitzka) as easy prey, invading his home and using it as a temporary haven for a kidnapped baby she plans to trade for work papers. Stockholm syndrome speedily develops and the lonely duo tentatively relaxes in silent platonic companionship.