Ferzan Ozpetek, an openly gay director and a transplant from Turkey is clearly the leader in gay Italian films, and it is no exaggeration to say that he has changed Italian cinema and Italian culture with his films that put homosexuality in the mainstream.
Le Fate Ignoranti (His Secret Life) stars one of my favorite actresses, Margherita Buy, as a woman who discovers that her husband was gay only after he’s hit with a car and dies. As she uncovers the world that he’s hidden from her she finds a new one for herself. Also stars Stefano Corsi.
Also from Ozpetek and easy to find in the US, La Finestra di Fronte, (Facing WIndows) with Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Raoul Bova, in a movie with a very powerful gay subplot about a holocaust survivor with Alzheimer’s disease who remembers just enough about his past to help an unhappy housewife find her way back to life.
WATCH INSTANTLY with subtitles
A bittersweet comedy, Mine Vaganti, Loose Cannons, also from Ozpetek, stars Riccardo Scamarcio and is about a young man’s struggle to come out and is used as a kind of symbol for an Italian culture struggling to deal with a changing society. Scarmarcio singing 500 Mila is one of my favorite movie scenes.
WATCH INSTANTLY with subtitles
And one that I found disappointing, Saturno Contro (Saturn in Opposition), with a stellar cast that includes Margherita Buy, Stefano Accorsi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Filippo Timi, Luca Argentero and Ambra Angiolini, for god’s sake, still manages to suck, somehow, with its stilted dialogue and a contrived storyline.
WATCH INSTANTLY with subtitles
My favorite from Ozpetek is hard to find in the US: Magnifica Presenza (A Magnificent Haunting) stars Elio Germano and Margherita Buy and is about a young gay actor that finds he has to share a house he’s renting with a family of ghosts.
COMING SOON: Call Me By Your Name
Since we haven’t had the chance to see it, we will rely on what Indie Wire calls a “Queer Masterpiece”.
Luca Guadagnino’s lush Italian romance premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews, including from IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, who wrote of the director’s work: “[Guadagnino] stays attuned to the raw energy of trying to feel someone out without touching them, of what it’s like to live through that one magical summer where the weather is the only part of your world that doesn’t change every day.”
Based on the 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman, “Call Me By Your Name” is an elegant and restrained romance between Elio (Timothée Chalamet), the 17-year-old son of an academic, and Oliver (Armie Hammer), the handsome American intern who has come to stay the summer in the Northern Italian villa Elio’s family owns.
Italy’s first film with a lesbian relationship in the protagonist roles is Maria Sole Tognazzi’s ‘Io E Lei (Me Myself and Her)‘, but half of the couple, Federica, isn’t sure she likes the lable. Marina is a former B list actress that’s gotten bored with her career and has bought a restaurant, out of the closet at a young age and comfortable in her own skin. Federica, in contrast has lived most of her life in heterosexual relationships, an architect with an ex-husband and a grown son. “I’m not a lesbian”, she tells Marina, and the disdainful accent on the word lesbian is obvious. “You are the first woman I was ever attracted to.”
Io E Lei stars Margherita Buy and Sabrina Ferilli.
The adorable Se Dio Vuole (God Willing) from director Edoardo Falcone stars Marco Giallini and Laura Morante as parents who think their son is gay, but it’s something else…
In Paolo Genovese’s (director of Perfetti Sconosciuti) ‘Tutta Colpa Di Freud (Blame Freud)’, Marco Giallini plays Francesco Taramelli, a psychiatrist with three daughters in the middle of three difficult and very different romantic complications, one a lesbian who decides she’d like to try playing for the other team. Her love affairs with women have ended sadly, and in an interesting twist on the usual reaction by the family, her decision to give it a go with men is met with scepticism by her father and sisters. “Just because I’m a psychiatrist it means I have to accept everything?
Director Daniele Luchetti shoved his mother out of the closet with an autobiographical story about his boyhood and his parent’s sexuality, Anni Felici (Those Happy Years). This one is available on Italian DVD.
Via Castellana Bandiera (A Street in Palermo) stars the director, Emma Dante, and Alba Rohrwacher as a lesbian couple on the verge of a nervous breakdown. When two cars meet head on in an alley in which only one car can pass at a time, nobody wants to back down. This one has been making the rounds at festivals in the US and you can save it at Netflix.
Nobody is pushing the gay envelope like Checco Zalone, and his ode to the president of Barilla Pasta proves that Checco is no homophobe, but merely a guy who is working for change and enlightenment in his own goofy way. In the wildly successful Che Bella Giornata (made more money than La Vita È Bella in Italy) Checco stuns his gay cousin with a song he sings at the local gay bar.
One of my favorite gay storylines is in La Bestia Nel Cuore ( Don’t Tell ). In this one the lesbians are friends of the main character, who is dealing with memories of incest, and their relationship is sweet and even funny. Played by two really wonderful actresses, Angela Finocchiaro and Stefania Rocca, the women find each other and help pull each other out of the depression that they find themselves in.
David’s birthday, Il Compleanno, is lighter on the relationship and heavier on the sex in a story about a beach vacation that goes bad. A married man gets fixated on the handsome young model son of his best friends and isn’t able to show self-control, unfortunately.
And in Io Sono L’amore ( I am love) there’s a lot going on in the Recchi family, but in the midst of all of it, the daughter, played by Alba Rohrwacher, comes out. With Tilda Swinton, this one is a great story all around.
Watch for a new comedy, out in Italian theaters just this past Christmas, with Raoul Bova and Paola Cortellesi called Scusate Se Esisto (Excuse Me For Living). This adorable couple, just friends, help each other through a critical time in both of their lives. Raoul, who is more than HOT, is also, unfortunately for Paola’s character, gay.