Though the list of fascinating characters are endless, here are 10 that Americans can get to know in movies that have been released in the USA.
In the mobster family drama Anime Nere (Black Souls), one of my top five favorite movies of the last few years, Fabrizio Ferracane’s portrayel of Luciano is my favorite character. With Luciano, director Francesco Munzi has created the perfect storm: a powerful story from Gioacchino Criaco’s book, exquisite cinematography by Vladan Radovic, spot on dialogue and skillful direction by Munzi, and Ferracane’s delicate approach to the tortured Luciano, who just wants to be left alone to tend his goats.
In Paolo Virzì’s ‘Il Capitale Umano’ (Human Capital), Valeria Bruni Tedeschi plays fragile Carla Bernaschi, the wife who doesn’t have to worry her pretty little head about anything bad that is happening in her family until it comes knocking on her door. Based on Stephen Amidon’s book about an American tragedy, this Italian version is really fascinating and Bruni Tedeschi is the best thing in it.
Toni Servillo is almost always the best thing in every movie he’s in, but playing Jep Gambardella in Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) is maybe the best thing anybody’s done in the last dozen years. For Gep, a journalist who wrote an important book years ago and has spent the time since resting on the laurels, everything in life seems like an exaggeration; a vapid, narcissistic, waste of time. In the midst of his socialite life in Rome he is surrounded by self-absorbed pseudo-intellectuals and artists that sully the name of art with meaningless nonsense, and he’s hesitant to contribute to the blah, blah blah that he feels swirling around him.
“Ci sono cose più importanti che provocare me”, Gep tells a young artist who has just run naked, smashing her head into an aqueduct as part of her performance. “There are more important things than provoking me.”
People tell me they are tired of Margherita Buy getting all the awards, but she earned them fair and square playing Margherita, the female version of Nanni Moretti in his film tribute to his mother, Mia Madre (My Mother).
Both Buy and Moretti do a really fascinating job of creating Moretti’s feminine alter ego and though this one is not yet available Music Box Films will be showing it around the country in late August and streaming is sure to follow, so stay tuned for updates.
Alba Rohrwacher is surely one of Italy’s best actors and was never better than she was as Mina in the English language Hungry Hearts from director Saverio Costanzo. Also starring Adam Driver as her alarmed husband and father of her (starving) child, Hungry Hearts is a really intense and frightening portrayal of the ultimate “crunchy mom.”
Time Magazine called Filippo Timi’s performance as dictator Benito Mussolini in Marco Bellocchio’s Vincere “one of the 10 best that wouldn’t win an Oscar”, and they were right.
In one of the most perfect little movies I have ever seen, Pranzo di Ferragosto (Mid-August Lunch), Gianni Di Gregorio plays Gianni, the unemployed Mamma’s boy who gets roped into babysitting all the neighborhood old ladies so their families can go to the beach.
Greta Scarano’s badass performance as Viola in the Netflix production of Suburra is my favorite of 2015.
Ten episodes of a mini-series based on the movie are to be produced by Netflix and will also be available in the US but are not due out until 2017. For now, Netflix has the movie and it should be on the top of your “to-do list”.
In Matteo Garrone’s ‘Reality’ Aniello Arena couldn’t have been a better choice for the part of Luciano, and yet Garrone had to go to some extra trouble to get him; he’s serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison for murder.
When Luciano, the family’s favorite cut-up, gets talked into trying out for an Italian reality show, he’s on board at first just to please his children, but it doesn’t take long to catch the celebrity bug. The transformation from loving husband and father to obsessed, TV star wannabe is quick but authentic.
It wouldn’t have been the same movie without him and Arena, who was only able to participate through a work release program may be the single biggest cinema surprise in years. Was he acting or is he really Luciano? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know, but he is perfect.
In Antonio Piazza and Fabio Grassadonia’s ‘Salvo’, Saleh Bakri plays the title character, a hired hitman with a heart that not even he understands. He’s tough and he’s feared, but he’s…lonely? I’m not sure, but when he kills her brother and then kidnaps blind Rita (Sara Serraiocco), something magical happens that changes both of their lives.