Currently browsing the "Italian" category.

Review: Piranhas

In this adaptation of Roberto Saviano’s (Gomorrah) coming of age novel a group of fifteen-year-old boys in Naples transform themselves from one of the city’s many adolescent street gangs into a gun toting mafia presence. These boys begin the film as pretty naive, just out to have some fun, but when Nicola (Francesco Di Napoli) grows weary of his mom being extorted for “protection” money he seeks out the son of a murdered crime boss and soon he and his friends are working for a drug dealer and making some serious money. And from there they work their way up the food chain, leaving their childish lives behind in a pool of blood.

Quickie Review: Pasolini

Italian poet, philosopher and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini loved nothing more than to push the envelope, to scandalize, to shock the senses. So it’s only fitting that Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) should direct a film about his last days since they are gritty birds of a feather. Pasolini stars Willem Dafoe (Spiderman, At Eternity’s Gate) who bears more than a passing resemblance to the man who died in 1975, murdered and left to rot on a beach in Ostia. The film is a kaleidoscope of Pasolini’s final film and his final quotidian existence, eating with his mother, giving an interview to a journalist, writing away on his typewriter, and trolling for young men to have sex with. And throughout there are scenes from an imagined version of his final script. It’s in Italian and English, sometimes subtitled, and sometimes not. And the audience is left to make the connections. The film assumes a knowledge of the filmmaker and his films, frequently making it a frustrating experience. But mostly it’s just too coarse and pretentious for my taste.

Review: Dogman

Bullies need enablers and Dogman is all about one such relationship. At the center is Marcello (Marcello Fonte), a diminutive and timid dog groomer, who lives for his time with his daughter Sofia and never met a dog he didn’t love. But he also sells cocaine on the side to make ends meet, especially to pay for his scuba trips with Sofia. One of his buyers is the hulking brute Simone (Edoardo Pesce) who Marcello looks at like one of his dogs that could be tamed, if only. Simone only sees the relationship as what he can get from Marcello and pushes it to the breaking point. It’s a dark and dreary character study with flashes of comedy that you know won’t end well.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2018

Another year at a fabulous festival! I wonder how long this little Virginia horse country festival can keep it up. It’s sure to burst its seams soon. This year’s slate was amazing, as usual. I was only able to fit in 10 of the 29 films offered in my three days of the festival and missed quite a few I really wanted to see. But what I saw was impressive. The big winner for me (it won the audience award, too) was Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, which will certainly be vying for the Oscar. But there really were quite a few standout films. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

AFIDOCS Reviews Part Two

Saturday was a full day, and I had not thought I was choosing films with a theme, but at the end of the day I realized it was a day about strong women. And it was a day of mostly strong filmmaking. Sunday, the final day of the festival turned out to be a day of films about the importance of community. And when it was all over, I was exhausted, but as usual my head is now full of ideas and new heroes, and I’m very thankful for the Girl Power on the screen.

Mia Madre

This is not a film you will enjoy, but you may relate. The main character Margherita (Margherita Buy) is a film director whose life is falling apart around her. Her relationship with her significant other is over, the film she is directing is being ruined by an actor (John Turturro) who can’t remember his lines, and to top it off her mother is in the hospital dying. Apparently, the film is autobiographical as Nanni Moretti, the writer/director and actor playing the director’s brother Giovanni, lost his mother while shooting his last film. Mia Madre balances the quiet drama of watching the mother go downhill with the silly comedy of Turturro’s Barry Huggins, who has a rich fantasy life including having worked for Kubrick and dreaming that Kevin Spacey is trying to kill him. Unfortunately, the wacky actor from America really steals the show.

Me and You (Io e te)

There are a handful of directors whose names lead me to expect greatness. Bertolucci is definitely one of them. He has written and directed some of the most successful and critically acclaimed films of the last 50 years. From The Conformist to 1900 to The Last Emperor and The Sheltering Sky, his movies have frequently been political and sweeping in scope. His latest by contrast is a small film adaptation of a popular young adult novel with no big name actors and it takes place mostly in a very dingy basement. But it just goes to show how good a director he really is. It is a slight piece, but entertaining and assured filmmaking.

The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza)

One of the five films nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, The Great Beauty is an amazingly wonderful dip into the pool of modern Roman decadence. The story is told from the perspective of Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a journalist who turns 65 at the beginning of the film, and who despite being known for his great first novel decades earlier, is still searching for his inspiration for a second. The film owes a great debt to Fellini. You cannot help but think of La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, but Jep is much more world weary than Marcello, and the movie is much more than mere homage. It has some of the most striking imagery of any recent film. And if you love Rome, this is a must see!

La doppia ora (The Double Hour)

La doppia ora means the double hour in Italian and refers to an instance when the hour and the minute are the same (like 11:11 or 05:05); and according to superstition you are meant to make a wish just then, which will come true. In the film La doppia ora, one of these rare moments happens as a couple chats on the street after meeting at a speed-dating event. Sonia is an Eastern European immigrant maid at a nice hotel in Torino who has witnessed a suicide as the film begins so she is not really in the best mood for the chit chat necessary at these dating session. Guido is an ex-cop who has been coming since he lost his wife 3 years earlier and has yet to meet anyone he could think of having a relationship with. But they are drawn to each other and start dating.

Certified Copy

There are some movies that are nearly impossible to review because to tell the story is to give away (ruin) the experience of watching it. Certified Copy is one of those films. Directed by Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry) and starring the luminous Juliette Binoche who won the Best Actress Award at Cannes for her role in this film, it is about the most confusing 106 minutes I have spent in a long time. Not a bad confusion, but a well planned, edge of your seat waiting and wondering when it is all going to make sense confusion. The central question, which pops up about 20 minutes in, has you questioning what is true and what isn’t right up until the end. And in addition to the twisting plot, the film alternates between English, French and Italian.