The line-up has been announced; thank you Film Society of Lincoln Center! Open Roads: New Italian Cinema (June 6-12) is the annual Italian Film Festival at New York’s Lincoln Center and the most fun I have all year.
Since 2001, the Film Society of Lincoln Center has brought some of the best and most interesting new Italian films and filmmakers to New York City and Open Roads: New Italian Cinema has become the leading North American showcase for contemporary Italian cinema. Last year I watched films with Ferzan Ozpetek, Paola Cortellesi, Ivan Cotroneo, and other directors and then heard them talk about their films.
This year’s highlight: The 2011 Venice Film Festival award winner of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, Marco Bellocchio will be there to present his film, Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty). The lives of a senator (Toni Servillo) and his pro-life daughter (Alba Rohrwacher), a retired actress and devout Catholic (Isabelle Hupert), a young troubled doctor and a methadone addict help tell the story of real life and high-profile euthanasia case in Italy.
Even more exciting for me, Daniele Ciprì will be in town with my favorite movie of 2012, È Stato il Figlio (It Was The Son). When a family who can barely put meat on the table buys a fancy car and when the son, already not the family favorite, puts a dent in that car, what happens is nothing less than a Greek tragedy.
EVERY BLESSED DAY (TUTTI I SANTI GIORNI) (2012) 102m
Director: Paolo Virzi
Virzi confirms his interest in the young generation with this small and intimate romantic comedy about Antonia and Guido, a strangely matched couple madly in love. Though the film takes its time to build nuanced, well-grounded characters and tells the story of their painful ordeal, it is fast paced and very funny. Antonia is a strong-willed, volatile musician from Sicily (and responsible for the film’s soundtrack); Guido is a bookish, gentle ancient language expert from Toscana. They want to have a child and are willing to try almost anything, including a treatment that involves chanting barefoot on the snow and a visit to the pope’s gynecologist. Virzi is one of the most personal voices in new Italian cinema, having infused his comedies with not-so funny real life issues, gentle irony and endearing characters. Based on La generazione by Simone Lenzi with original music by Thony (who plays Antonia).
Thursday, June 6, 6:30pm (Q&A)
Tuesday, June 11, 9:00pm
THE DISCOVERY AT DAWN (LA SCOPERTA DELL’ALBA) (2012) 95m
Director: Susanna Nicchiarelli
Rome, 1981: Professor Mario Tessandori is shot in the university courtyard and dies in the arms of Lucio Astengo, his friend and colleague. A few weeks later, Astengo vanishes mysteriously. Flash forward to 2011. Caterina and Barbara Astengo, 6 and 12 when their father passed away, put their family cottage by the sea up for sale, which has long since been abandoned. The house is filled with memories of a childhood interrupted by the father’s disappearance, a broken family that never reassembled. In one corner, there’s an old phone still attached to the outlet. Caterina picks it up and discovers that, inexplicably, it works, even though the line is disconnected. Playfully, she dials her home number from 30 years earlier and hears the voice of a child responding on the other end. In shock, she realizes that she is speaking to her 12-year-old self, a week before the death of her father. She’s been given a second chance, if not to save him then at least to uncover the truth. Wonderful performances by Margarita Buy and Susanna Nicchiarelli herself as Caterina’s sister.
Special appearance by Susanna Niccharelli at June 8 screening.
Saturday, June 8, 1:30pm (Q&A)
Monday, June 10, 4:00pm
DORMANT BEAUTY (BELLA ADDORMENTATA) (2012) 115m
Director: Marco Bellocchio
Isabelle Huppert and Toni Servillo star in Italian master Bellocchio’s compelling, somber ensemble drama in which characters in three interrelated storylines struggle with the moral impasses and compromises of modern life. The film’s point of departure is a real-life, right-to-euthanasia case that became a national controversy in 2008, culminating in a Parliamentary vote. (The film’s title might more precisely be “Sleeping Beauty.”) Against this backdrop, Bellocchio attempts to encompass the differing values and outlook of young and old, reactionary and idealistic: that of a senator (Servillo) with a passionately pro-life daughter (Alba Rohrwacher) preparing to cast his vote on the issue; a retired actress and devout Catholic (Huppert) who tends to her own comatose daughter; and a troubled young doctor (Bellocchio’s brother, Pier Giorgio) who tries to help a suicidal methadone addict (Maya Sansa). Bellocchio takes an X-ray of the lingering malaise of late-Berlusconi Italy and its frightening intellectual and psychological confusion—and certainly touches a nerve.
Special appearance by Marco Bellocchio.
Thursday, June 6, 9:15pm
Friday, June 7, 1:15pm
THE FACE OF ANOTHER (IL VOLTO DI UN ‘ALTRA) (2012) 83m
Director: Pappi Corsicato
In this outrageously mordant satire of celebrity and image-dependant culture, the exuberant host of a popular TV show about plastic surgery is fired with the excuse that the public is tired of her face. After she suffers a serious car accident, her plastic surgeon husband, also the director of an exclusive private clinic from where the TV program is broadcast, seizes the opportunity to claim a fraudulent insurance payoff. Corsicato, a Neapolitan choreographer who was an assistant to Almodóvar, wields in this clever story the same insolent sense of humor as in his previous films, with bizarre, surprising plot twists and over-the-top characters bordering on the ridiculous.
Special appearance by Pappi Corsicato at both screenings.
Saturday, June 8, 8:45pm (Q&A)
Sunday, June 9, 1:15pm (Q&A)
THE FIRST MAN (2011) 100m
Director: Gianni Amelio
This adaptation of Albert Camus’ last novel, left unfinished by the Nobel Prize winner when he died in a car accident at 46, is a fictionalized autobiography: part childhood memoir set in 1920s Algeria, part epic narrative of a country on the eve of revolution in the 1950s as it struggles for independence from France. The movement back and forth in time helps explain the protagonist’s conflicted political position in the incipient revolution. Beautiful cinematography by Yves Cape (Ma vie en rose) effectively captures the contrast between the glowing warmth of the sun and sea of Camus’s childhood, as described in his writing, and the more subdued tones portraying the intellectual he becomes.
Friday, June 7, 6:00pm (Q&A)
Wednesday, June 12, 4:00pm
HANDMADE CINEMA (2012) 52m
Director: Guido Torlonia
Wigmakers, haberdashers, cobblers, builders, make-up artists, tailors, designers, and painters are just a few of the craftsmen whose trade and invisible hands help create the magic that the spectator experiences in cinema. This loving tribute is an homage to the mostly unknown elaborate artistry involved in the creation of films. Narrated by Chiara Mastroianni, who has known many of these artisans since she was a little girl accompanying her father Marcello on the sets, and brimming with wonderful archival footage of films and behind-the-camera scenes, it is also a tribute to the history of Italian cinema itself. Discovering the detailed manual skills behind epic titles like Cleopatra, Ben Hur, The Name of the Rose and Gangs of New York brings another dimension to our appreciation of the art of filmmaking. The documentary was financed by Louis Vuitton to screen at the opening of their new store and screening room in Rome.
THE RESCUE (IL RISCATTO) (2013) 22m
Director: Giovanna Taviani
The story of Salvatore Striano, the main character of the Taviani brothers’ film, CAESAR MUST DIE (CESARE DEVE MORIRE) who is rescued from the hell of prison after discovering Shakespeare.
Friday, June 7, 3:45pm
Sunday, June 9, 3:45pm (Q&A)
I TRAVEL ALONE (VIAGGIO SOLA) (2013) 85m
Director: Maria Sole Tognazzi
Single and middle-aged, beautiful Irene (Margarita Buy) is wholly devoted to her job as an inspector of luxury hotels. Constantly on the road, she indulges in expensive pleasures at impeccable resorts, but always incognito and alone, soon escaping to the next exotic destination with her checklist and laptop in tow. When her best friend and ex Andrea (Stefano Accorsi), who has always been a source of emotional support, suddenly becomes unavailable, Irene is thrown into a deep existential crisis. “Luxury is a form of deceit,” she is told by a fellow traveller in the fog of a steam room, and thus begins Irene’s quest to bring more meaning into her life.
Special appearance by Maria Sole Tognazzi at June 8 screening.
Saturday, June 8, 6:15pm (Q&A)
Tuesday, June 12, 9:00pm
IT WAS THE SON (E’ STATO IL FIGLIO) (2012) 90m
Director: Daniele Cipri
In his first film without long time partner Maresca, Daniele Cipri crafts with characteristic acid humor a multilayered tale about a Sicilian family tragedy populated with grotesque characters. The film, based on a novel by Roberto Alajmo, is a story within a story narrated by Old Busu, about the Ciraulo family boy who killed his father in a fight over a scratched car. Nicola Ciraulo (in a wonderful performance by Toni Servillo) makes a living by scavenging for old boat parts with son and father while his mother, wife and adored daughter Serenella take care of the home in a grim housing project. A tragic accident resulting from a vendetta offers them the opportunity to make lots of money fast. What ensues is an unforgiving satire of Palermo lifestyle bordering on the absurd and involving a Mercedes-Benz blessed with holy water.
Special appearance by Daniele Cipri at June 9 screening.
Sunday. June 9, 8:30pm (Q&A)
Monday, June 11, 4:30pm
NINA (2012) 78m
Director: Elisa Fuksas
Over the course of a hot summer in a near-empty suburb of Rome, a young woman in her 20s (Diane Fleri, My Brother Is an Only Child and I Am Love) indulges in a period of solitude and inner contemplation. She shuttles around in her yellow vespa, giving singing lessons, dog sitting and learning the art of Chinese calligraphy from an aged professor whose technical instructions are also meant to be (much needed) spiritual guidance. Her life’s lack of direction is contained within impeccably composed and gorgeously shot portrayals of the district’s architectural gems—large, modernist and Neoclassical buildings. This is no coincidence, as 31-year-old Fuksas is the daughter of two leading Italian architects and studied architecture herself before becoming a filmmaker. Modernist architecture and precise, clean compositions are the perfect backdrop to emphasize the sensuality imparted by Nina’s enjoyment of sensorial pleasures in the ever-present heat: ice cream, the sound of crickets, poetry, and the breeze as she bikes through desolate locations that are like self-contained little worlds, all of which imperceptibly help move her onto the next stage in her life.
Special appearance by Elisa Fuksas at both screenings.
Saturday, June 8, 4:00pm (Q&A)
Sunday, June 10, 6:30pm (Q&A)
PIAZZA FONTANA, THE ITALIAN CONSPIRACY (ROMANZO DI UNA STRAGE) (2012) 129m
Director: Marco Tullio Giordana
Marco Tullio Giordana (The Best of Youth) delivers a Machiavellian drama, based on a book by Paolo Cucchiarelli, which dissects the Piazza Fontana bombing, highlighting the manipulations and tragic consequences of the event and subsequent investigations. An explosion at the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura in Milan in 1969 resulted in 17 deaths and injured dozens more. The protests sweeping Europe and the fear of communism led the police to focus their investigations on anarchist groups. But the Police Commissioner is convinced it’s not that simple. When known non-violent protester Giuseppe Pinelli dies in police custody, Calabresi’s inquiries reveal a conspiracy to discredit the Left by foreign and state governments, the police, the secret service through to neo-fascists. Intriguingly complicated and politically nuanced, Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy is an ever-twisting conspiracy of lies, intrigue and dirty politics. The meticulously staged, real-life story is both enthralling and gripping. An Adopt Films release.
Friday, June 7, 8:30pm (Q&A)
Tuesday, June 12, 6:15pm
PRETTY BUTTERFLIES (BELLAS MARIPOSAS) (2012) 104m
Director: Salvatore Mereu
All 12-year-old Caterina wants is to escape the house and dangerous neighborhood where she lives with her numerous siblings and tyrannical father in the slums of the Sardinian capital, Cagliari. She doesn’t want to end up like her sister Mandarina, pregnant at 13. We learn all of this from her as she candidly narrates her own story, with humor and startling directness, often looking into the camera. When she learns that her brother Tonio wants to kill Gigi, a neighbor with whom she’s in love, she sets out to stop him. A sense of urgency pervades her narration, as the camera travels in semi-documentary style through the almost deserted margins of Cagliari, following Caterina and her best friend Luna as they visit the beach, eat ice cream and joke around on the day the murder is supposed to happen. Based on a short story by Sardinian author Sergio Atzeni.
Special appearance by Salvatore Mereu at June 9 screening.
Sunday, June 9, 6:00pm (Q&A)
Monday, June 11, 6:30pm