In 2000 Silvio Soldini directed my very favorite, Pane E Tulipani (Bread and Tulips), a whimsical and romantic movie with characters that are just the right degree of quirky.
In 2004 he got a little wackier and made Agata E La Tempesta (Agatha And The Storm), well received but at times, idiosyncratic for the sake of idiosyncrasy.
2012’s Il Comandante E La Cicogna (The Commander And The Stork), now available on PAL region 2 DVD and with English subtitles, sends him over the edge of eccentricity and into an excessively surreal abyss.
In the latest Soldini movie a stork and an elevated statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi look down on a decaying Italian civilization, providing social commentary and heavy-handed imagery while a plumber (Valerio Mastandrea), his dead wife (Claudia Gerini), his daughter, and his oddball son try to make their way in it. A starving artist, played by Alba Rohrwacher and her flaky landlord (Giuseppe Battiston) round out the oh-so-precious cast.
“Italy is going through tough years. People are falling in the mud and plumbers and artists are getting caught up in the mess. I searched for a new way to tell what I see through fantasy and levitation,” Soldini explained. I see what he was trying to do, and if only he could have focused on a few things instead of trying to illustrate every single problem in Italy he may have been more successful.
On top of all this there’s an unsatisfying love story with no real chemistry and, in the end, Soldini has really let me down. Maybe he should have made it a musical, as he’d thought of doing, and it might have gotten an added ironic touch that would have made it more engaging.
And maybe Soldini should climb out of that surreal abyss and go back to his more serious movies like Giorni E Nuvole (Days and Clouds) and Cosa Voglio Di Più (Come Undone).