An Italian I met yesterday (Ciao Angelo, se tu stai leggendo questo), told me he didn’t like the movies in his country, and I asked him what he thought of Checco Zalone. “Checco Zalone!” he laughed. ‘I’ve never heard an American talk about Checco Zalone!”
That’s because most Americans don’t know about Checco, and I really don’t know why Italians are keeping him to themselves.
1) Alessandro Rossetto is not even well enough known in his own country, but this director is smart, innovative, and brave. His 2013 Piccola Patria is a movie I can’t stop thinking about. Two young girls in Northern Italy dream and scheme to get enough money to move away, and they aren’t above extortion to make their dreams come true.
2) Budding actress Maria Roveran played one of the girls, and Rossetto told me that though the rumors were that she was a non-professional, this was far from true. PIccola Patria might have been her first professional role but she’s studied extensively and is ready for fame and fortune. Her subtle performance in the dark Piccola Patria was outstanding and we will see more of Maria.
3) Checco Zalone is not unknown in any stretch of the imagination. His films have made more money than any others in Italian box office history including Benigni’s Life is Beautiful. Checco’s comedies are decidedly low-brow but only the biggest curmudgeon would not admit that he is hilarious.
4) Riccardo Scamarcio is too good-looking to be a secret, but he’s still not very well-known in America. He just starred in Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini, so we know that he’s knocking on our door; answer the door, America! Scamarcio is hot!
5) Pierfrancesco Diliberto is Italy’s answer to Jon Stewart, very popular on Italian TV, and his first film, La Mafia Uccide Solo D’Estate, won the European Film Award for best comedy. It’s a bittersweet story about a normal boy who grows up in Palermo watching the Mafia tear his country apart, and yes, it is funny. Very funny. “Pif”, as he is known in Italy, is meant for greatness.
6) Daniele Luchetti has been around for too long for Americans not to have learned his name. Many of you who love Italian movies as I do have seen a couple of his films, because they are available on Netflix. Check out Ginger and Cinnamon and My Brother is an Only Child. My favorite of Luchetti’s is his most recent, Anni Felici (Those Happy Years). I told Luchetti that no one gets an emotional performance out of an actor like he does.
7) Roberto Andò is so darned cool it kills me that he doesn’t make movies in America. His film, Viva La Libertà starred Toni Servillo (from La Grande Bellezza) and made it to a lot of film festivals in the US. It’s based on Andò’s own novel, Il Trono Vuoto, and about a political party leader that goes AWOL. Roberto is one of the smartest guys I have ever met and way too talented to not be known world-wide.
8) Greta Scarano will be known, I promise you. This beautiful young woman proved herself in Senza Nessuna Pietà with Pierfrancesco Favino.
9) Carlo Virzì is director Paolo Virzì’s brother but his talent is not quite as well-known. A musician and composer, he’s done the soundtrack for Paolo’s movies, including the award-winning Il Capitale Humano (Human Capital), in American theaters this month. Carlo directed his own movie, the very funny The Greatest of All.
10) I will never stop talking about Ivan Cotroneo and his absolute gem of a movie Kryptonite Nella Borsa. This is the kind of Italian comedy that should be available through Netflix – it is adorable.A young boy going through some emotional family problems needs a super hero, and he gets one, “the Italian Superman”.