Reading Roberto Bernocchi’s Bellocchio: incomprehensible and Provincial? on mymovies.it makes me realize that many Italians really don’t get why directors like Marco Bellocchio are not very exportable. I watched his Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty) at the Venice Film Festival and, while there’s a lot to love about it, I knew it didn’t have a chance at the top prizes. Not a chance; I’d have made book on it.
“There wasn’t much doubt that the defeat of Italian cinema at Venice (or better, the lack of important victories) would cause discussions and controversy, in particular for Bella Addormentata considered a favorite for its wide recognition”, said Bernocchi.
I’m going to shake the confusion that I feel trying to understand why anyone would have thought it even in the running out of my head and tell you why I knew it wasn’t.
Bernocchi says that one of the biggest theories in Italy is that an international jury wouldn’t understand it because it’s a true story that happened in Italy (the Eluana Englaro right to die controversy). Because there are too many movies that would blow that theory out of the water, including the wildly successful Gomorrah, which won at Cannes in 2008 and jury president Sean Penn and the French seemed to comprehend just fine, this theory is just plain wacky.
I can only speak as an American moviegoer, and really only for myself, but I think what non-Italians “don’t get” about a movie like Bella Addormentata is the uneven and at times simplistic treatment of the plot. For example, Isabelle Huppert‘s character was simply genius, but what happens in her part of the movie we could see coming a mile away; so let’s add “predictable” to the list of adjectives I’d use to describe Bella Addormentata. Bellocchio went for the easy and obvious answers to the questions in this movie and he didn’t have to. Other directors, even Italian ones, wouldn’t have.
Bellochio failed because of the eye-rolling moments – and there were some. Like when Alba Rohrwacher’s character claims to understand everything better after a one night stand with a man she didn’t even know. Or like when Maya Sansa’s character opens the window. You’ll see what I mean.
The story of Eluana Englaro didn’t win, not because it’s an Italian story, not because foreigners don’t care about things that happen in Italy, and certainly not because of the wonderful cast and the amazing acting (Toni Servillo, Maya Sansa, Pier Giorgio Bellocchio, Alba Rohrwacher, Isabelle Huppert, Michele Riondino; seriously – what more could a director want?). And not because of Eluana Englaro. Bella Addormentata didn’t win because of Marco Bellocchio, who, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to take his filmmaking into the 21st century.
I’m not saying he should. I’m not saying he has to do anything he doesn’t want to. I’m just saying, that’s why he didn’t win at Venice. The movie was not good enough to win – Daniele Ciprì, who won the cinematography award, had a better chance with his È Stato Il Figlio than Bellocchio had with Bella Addormentata.