It’s a great year for Italian cinema and the David di Donatellos, the Golden Globes, The Nastri D’Argentos,and even the American Academy Awards proved that. But in all the excitement, some excellent work was not properly rewarded.
At the top of my list, a little irony: Micaela Ramazzotti as Serena, the frustrated wife and mother in Daniele Luchetti’s ‘Anni Felici.’ Ramazzotti was never my favorite, and when she was nominated for Carlo Verdone’s comedy Posti in Piedi in Paradiso (A Flat For Three), I was baffled. This year, after giving what I consider the best performance by an actress, she was pretty much left behind.
Luchetti pulled out everything Ramazzotti had; I’d be surprised if she didn’t collapse from exhaustion after some of the scenes. When, at the beach, Serena hungers for her son’s affection and it’s not returned, her anguish is crushingly authentic. As good as all those other nominated actresses were this year, Micaela was better.
There were so many good performances in Micaela Ramazzotti’s husband’s film, Il Capitale Umano (Human Capital). Director Paolo Virzì created a virtual award machine with this one, and a lot of people benefited, but the best performance was somewhat overlooked. 24 year-old non-professional actress Matilde Giolir, who played the teenager Serena (another character named Serena; is this a trend?) came from nowhere and stole the show.
“My mother is a teacher and leaving her school one day I saw a notice on a stoplight looking for twenty-year-olds with Milanese accents”, she said, and though she didn’t want to make a “big deal” out of it, but was selected by Virzì for the role.
Good eye, Paolo. Matilde is perfect as the intense high school girl who is trying to manage all the chaos in her life with little help from the adults who are meant to protect her.
Salvo, from Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza won the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes but the film and the two directors deserved much more. Luckily for moviegoers but unlucky for the film, it was a very competive year for new directors, with Pierfrancesco Diliberto (La Mafia Uccide Solo D’Estate) and Sydney Sibilia (Smetto Quando Voglio) impressing everyone, including me, with their work. Still, if you can call a director’s first feature film a “masterpiece”, that’s what Salvo is for Grassadonia and Piazza.
Salvo’s star, Saleh Bakri, delivers the season’s best performance for an actor, but was overshadowed by the wild success of Virzì’s film. He is powerful as the hollow, hit man who encounters the blind girl.
Last year at the Venice Film Festival everywhere I went people were talking about how much they loved Andrea Segre’s ‘La Prima Neve’ (First Snowfall), and yet it was completely ignored when the awards started getting handed out. It was my favorite of the festival, and I couldn’t get over Matteo Marchel, the child that Segre had found to play Michele. It was as if he’d been born in the role, with the playfulness with friends, anger toward his mother, and the attachment he formed to the refugee that entered his family’s life.