As an American, I’m going to have to admit that some of Francesca Archibugi’s latest film Il Nome Del Figlio (An Italian Name) went over my head. The rapid fire wise-cracking and bickering at this dinner party with a couple, the wife’s brother and sister-in-law, and a long time friend will be easier to follow when it screens with English subtitles at Open Roads: New Italian Films in New York (June 4-11). If there were some, “Wait…what?” moments for me, and a few dozen instances of rewinding to understand the joke, or why everyone was crying, it was worth the effort.
Betta and Sandro, (Golino and Lo Cascio) are hosting a dinner party for Betta’s brother and sister-in-law, Paolo and Simona (Gassman and Ramazzotti), expecting a child, and a long time, possibly gay friend Claudio (Papaleo). In a story based on the French Film Le Prénom and reminiscent of Roman Polanski’s Carnage, all Hell breaks loose when Paolo announces the name that he and Simona have chosen for their child.
Benito. As in Mussolini.
“Is there a fascist in your tummy?” Sandro’s son asks Simona. ” My dad says there is.”
Paolo insists that enough time has passed and the name is without baggage, but nobody except his wife agrees, and an argument about the name provokes the opening of every unhealed wound in the group’s history.
Wherein Carnage is a slice of unattractive Americana, and Le Prénom is a French family behaving badly, Il Nome Del Figlio is dysfunction all’Italiana, with elitism, intellectual snobbery and sexual secrets all at the root of the problem.
As the evening passes, there is outrage over what everyone considers an arrogant choice of name for a baby, bursts of laughter and song, and confessions of betrayals and hurt feelings. Simona, a best-selling author wants to know if anyone has read her latest book, and none of them have, not even her husband. Sandro wonders why Betta’s coworker has called during dinner. Everybody wants to know why Simona and Claudio have been keeping a big secret for so many years.
It’s a mess, and it’s real life. The dialogue is natural and flows and explodes like a real family’s (unfortunately) sometimes does and Archibugi does a great job balancing the family bonds and the bloodshed, keeping the carnage to a minimum in this Italian slice of life.