There are dozens of movies available on Netflix and Amazon for instant viewing, but let’s update the movies you can find On Demand on Time Warner and probably other cable companies.
As of today, you’ll find Alice Rohrwacher’s Corpo Celeste, Nanni Moretti’s We Have A Pope, and Ferzan Ozpetek’s Loose Cannons. I found Corpo Celeste and Loose Cannons under “international” (“other” – they don’t give Italy a category anymore), but I found We Have A Pope under “in theaters”.
Corpo Celeste is Alice’s very personal and very genuine story of 13-year-old Marta’s move from Switzerland to Italy is the best of two worlds; it’s got authenticity and realism but remains an allegorical fairy tale, with a young heroine fighting figurative dragons in a far-off land.
Marta (newcomer Yle Vianello) has lived most of her life in a more secular location in Switzerland and when the family returns to their native Calabria, she’s thrown into a Jesus Land that she is unfamiliar with. So that she’ll make friends and prepare for her Catholic confirmation, Marta’s mother puts her in the parish confirmation class.
The teacher is a woman that anyone familiar with a Catholic parish knows well. Every church has someone just like her; a lady that runs the show, a kind of “woman behind the man”, in this case the man is a priest. Don’t misunderstand me – the church needs her. In Marta’s parish, Santa (played by the virtually unknown Pasqualina Scuncia) selflessly toils to guide the young people of the church, organize celebrations and play housewife for the priest, who doesn’t appreciate any of it. Pasqualina Scuncia doesn’t seem to be acting – she is Santa, playing the role with astonishing credibility.
The priest, (Salvatore Cantalupo from Gomorrah) who is working behind the scenes to get out of the hick town that the parish is in and sees himself in a more influential job, has everyone under his thumb, and though this kind of arrangement is new to Marta, her mother, and her sister, and she go along with it.
Marta, who has no voice in this new land, says more with her eyes and her facial expressions than with words, and though she wants to please her over-worked mother, she isn’t buying it all and she has to draw a line somewhere. For this little girl, new to Jesus Land, it isn’t enough to just go through the motions for her confirmation. She wants to understand what she’s signing up for.
Corpo Celeste is a surprising and powerful achievement for such a young and relatively inexperienced director. A documentary filmmaker, this is her first feature film and she was awarded the Nastro d’Argento for best new director.
Corpo Celeste premiered at Cannes and you can pre-order it from Amazon: it will be available in DVD on November 6, 2012.
Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Writer: Alice Rohrwacher
Stars: Salvatore Cantalupo, Anita Caprioli and Renato Carpentieri
We Have A Pope (Habemus Papam)
Earlier this year as the world waited for Nanni Moretti’s movie, Habemus Papam about the Pope and his therapist the camps were polarizing and poising to react; those critical of the church hoping for a decisive blow against the Vatican from an irreverent Moretti and the Catholic faithful ready to condemn Moretti for insulting it. And even when the movie was released and more objective eyes realized that it lacked the controversy that had been expected, a lot of people found it hard not to see what they were sure they would see. Recently released on DVD in Europe (not in the US yet – Sundance Selects has acquired the rights), my copy arrived this week from ibs.it and I finally got to see it.
In Habemus Papam, We Have a Pope, to the church’s critics dismay and despite what the faithful thinks, Moretti doesn’t condemn, mock or humiliate the pope or the Vatican, he just brings it all to a human level. Could it be that Moretti didn’t have it in him this time? Or maybe it’s just that he isn’t the bully that everyone’s making him out to be. After all, his last film, Caos Calma, Quiet Chaos, is a movie about a father trying to protect his little girl, and in his Palme D’or winner La Stanza del Figlio (The son’s room) , about a family’s grief when a son dies, so expecting a protest film might have been wishful thinking.
Moretti was asked if the sex scandal and financial trouble in the Catholic Church affected the script in anyway, and he said that but for a few lines about how the church finds it hard to admit mistakes, “I wasn’t interested in reminding viewers of what they already knew. I thought it was too easy. So I preferred to invent my own Vatican. I never thought to let myself be led by breaking news.”
In Habemus Papam, sequestered in the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals are choosing the next Pope and each praying to God that he isn’t chosen, so here’s something I’d never considered: it isn’t exactly like hitting the lottery. It’s a monumental burden and the “winner” had better be up to the challenge.
The film’s “winner”, Melville, isn’t. Before he can even come out on the balcony at St. Peter’s to greet the masses, he has a giant panic attack and runs to hide. When all medical reasons for his behavior are exhausted, a therapist is reluctantly called, “the best in Rome”, played by Moretti. Given very limited parameters (no asking about his holiness’s mother, childhood, or faith) and with the cardinals all standing around watching Moretti tries to get to bottom of it as Melville continues to cry out “Non ce la faccio!” – “I can’t!”
All about expectations, the movie, first shown in competition at Cannes, has chosen a Pope for protagonist almost by chance. It could have been a young college student whose family expects him to go into the family business when he graduates and would rather be a NASCAR driver, or a woman who wants to remain childless when her family and friends expect her to have children. How does one say “no” when the world is calling you to a position you do not wish to fill?
Making it about a pope makes for a grander and more beautiful movie, with Rome and the Vatican as a backdrop and cardinal red all around. And it made it, of course, more intense. The Pope isn’t just saying “no” to his colleagues or followers, he’s saying “no” to God, and God, who doesn’t err, has chosen him.
Nanni Moretti’s part is much smaller than I’d expected with most of the plot centering around Melville, who flies the coop and runs incognito around Rome. Moretti provides a little humor back at the Vatican as he amuses himself by organizing volleyball tournaments for the cardinals. Margherita Buy’s part, also a therapist and Moretti’s character’s ex-wife is more of a cameo.
I am Catholic, so maybe I saw things that those who are not just can’t, but there’s a profound beauty in Habemus Papam as this man, the Pope, struggles to decide what is his obligation to the world. I’m still glad that Terraferma was sent for Oscar consideration, but I liked Habemus Papam very much and I’d like to thank Moretti for his balanced and thoughtful look at the Catholic Church.
Though the availability date is unknown, you can save We Have A Pope on Netflix.
Director: Nanni Moretti
Writers: Nanni Moretti, Francesco Piccolo, and 1 more credit »
Stars: Michel Piccoli, Nanni Moretti and Jerzy Stuhr
Loose Cannons (Mine Vaganti)
Ferzan Ozpetek’s Mine Viganti isn’t the first Italian movie I’ve seen that deals with attitudes towards homosexuality in Italy and I’m not even sure it’s the best. Ozpetek himself made” Le Fate Ignoranti “ (His Secret Life), a story of a woman who finds out that her husband was gay and living a double life when he suddenly dies. In the award winning “La Bestia Nel Cuore“ ( Don’t Tell ) there’s a very sweet side story about a lesbian couple. In “Il Più Bel Giorno Della Mia Vita” (The Best Day of My Life ) Luigi Lo Cascio plays a family’s gay uncle and in “Manuale D’Amore 2 “ a gay couple decides to marry. All deal with homosexuality in sensitive, supportive ways and despite new reports of homophobia in Italy, they demonstrate to me that at least the Italian film industry wants out of the closet.
Here in the United States we’ve been out for a long time and we have little patience for others who aren’t. I’m not saying we should; I’m just saying that it’s not constructive to dismiss a culture that is clearly making an effort, even if we think that not enough progress has been made. I asked my husband, Brian, who watched Mine Vaganti with me, what he thought and he described it in one word: dated. I agree that if it it had been made by Americans it would have been considered extremely dated but I think that we have to put the story in another context – an Italian one – and give it a break. Right off the bat you have to give the handsome, heterosexual heartthrob, Riccardo Scamarcio a lot of credit for giving such a convincing performance as Tommaso, a gay man in love. And then you have to remember that Mine Vaganti is not just about homosexuality, it’s about Italy in transition.
Tommaso’s story is wrapped inside his Grandmother’s story and this is what takes Mine Vaganti far beyond silly sitcom level of gay storytelling. Ozpetek could have done a couple of things better – he could have made Tomasso’s friends seem less like cartoon characters. He didn’t need to take out all of the stereotypes, but he could have made them a little less heavy handed. I would change a couple of things but here’s what I wouldn’t change – the parallels he made with Tommaso’s struggle and his grandmother’s. Both of them have been living in the shadow of a family who doesn’t really want to know who they are. Both long to live the life they felt destined to live, but have been denied because of the traditions and mores in the Italian culture. Of everyone in the family, the Nonna sees what is going on better than anyone, and what she does to herself at the end of the movie, she does for Tommaso. Cutting her own losses is a cry for help for the rest of her family.
Mine Vaganti is warm, sweet, and at times very funny. Antonio,the family’s patriarch, who has just disowned another son for coming out, mistakes Tommaso’s gay friends and lover for macho frat boys. He announces loudly at the cafe that everybody had better lock up their daughters – there are some manly men in town! The rest of Tomasso’s famly is a likable, eccentric lot with problems of their own.
I loved Mine Vaganti, but I’m not sure that we who are not Italian can completey appreciate what it is trying to say. An Italian friend once told us, “You Americans take freedom for granted. We still feel like we have to pay someone off for it, or we just give up and do what’s expected of us.” I don”t know to what extent, but I think there is some truth there. And that’s why I don’t want to rewrite this movie. Italy may be coming from a different place but it’s going in the right direction.
It’s won a ton of awards and is playing at film festivals so even though Mine Vaganti isn’t available in the US yet, it will be. You can save it on Netflix, though the availability date is unknown.
Director: Ferzan Ozpetek
Writers: Ivan Cotroneo , Ferzan Ozpetek
Stars: Riccardo Scamarcio, Nicole Grimaudo and Alessandro Preziosi