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Joe Morelli is a scam artist that loves to prey on innocent people in
the poorer regions of Italy. As we meet him, he is trying to swindle
whoever he can from the impoverished Sicilians that happen to live in
those forgotten towns. The movie is set after WWII in a ruined Italy
that hasn't come out of its defeat and most of the population is having
a hard time eking a life, mainly from the land.
Morelli, pretending to be a scout for a big Rome studio is seen traveling the back ways of Sicily with his small van that opens up to a mini studio where the unsuspecting people of those towns flock for a screen test that no one will ever see. For the price of 1,500 lire they get a chance to act for the con man and his camera, hoping they will be the next discovery, once the film is seen by the big casting directors in Rome.
Giuseppe Tornatore has a love for the cinema, as he showed with "Nuovo cinema Paradiso", which chronicled, perhaps, his own childhood in a small town in Sicily. Mr. Tornatore is a director that hasn't forgotten his roots, as he demonstrates with this tale about innocent common people being duped because their love and the allure of the cinema, that dream making medium.
Sergio Castellitto, one of the best actors working today in the Italian cinema, does a wonderful job interpreting Morelli for the director. His Morelli is never mean, or nasty; in fact, one of his best qualities is the way how he bonds with his subjects. Mr. Castellitto does wonders as the man without scruples, who eventually is found by one person who he made a fool of. Also, Morelli finds in Beata, the sweet and innocent girl from a convent a love he never knew he was capable of having.
Beata, is played by Tiziana Lodato, a beautiful young actress who is the one that makes Morelli understand his guilt after he is beaten and young Beata is interned in an institution. Leopoldo Trieste is seen as the mysterious figure who comes to recite a Spanish text for his screen test. Franco Scaldatto has some good moments in the film.
This is a film that will not disappoint fans of Giuseppe Tornatore because of his vision about people love for the cinema.
This attractive Italian film featured an interesting story and some
pretty women. It's a story about a man who dupes the natives
(Sicilians, in this case) into thinking they could become movies stars
after paying money to him to get a personal screen test. This turns out
to be a pathetic comment about the unrealistic lure of fame and
This film really looks good on widescreen DVD. It is gorgeous, just beautifully filmed, and I'm not just referring to the figures on the women.
The dialog is a bit strange, at least to us over here in the States. I suppose this is considered a comedy but I saw it more as a drama. Yes, there are laughs, but it's pitiful how easily people are duped and what their values are.
I found this an entertaining movie all the way through. With the nudity, it's not for kids (hence, the "R" rating.)
This movie, by the director of Cinema Paradiso, "disappointed" a lot of American movie reviewers because it lacks the sentimentality and pat structure of CP. But it's far more epic, poetic & imaginative (& much less PC) and absolutely gorgeous to watch. Ignore the puritans at the NY Times & SF Chronicle. Watch this movie. You won't be sorry.
A seemingly heartless con-man (Sergio Castellito) goes around post-World War II Sicily filming most everyone, for a price, and leads villagers to believe that he is a talent scout for a film studio. Naturally many flock to the apparently kind stranger and do what they can to escape lives of poverty and unhappiness. Castellito meets up with many vivid characters, but none more so than the beautiful Tiziana Lodato (in her first screen role). Soon the young lady is begging Castellito to take her to the land of movie-making and in the process he falls in love with her and acquires a conscience. Apparently he may change his ways and then again maybe not, but it becomes very clear that the local authorities may catch up to Castellito before the film runs its course. "The Star Maker" was a Best Foreign Language Film nominee at the Academy Awards in 1995. Co-written and directed by horribly under-rated Italian film-maker Giuseppe Tornatore (who struck Foreign Language Oscar gold in 1989 with "Cinema Paradiso", one of my all-time favorite pictures), "The Star Maker" is a flawed work because of a strange tone that makes it an uneven experience at times. Humorous situations early point the way to a free-wheeling comedy, but soon drama sneaks in and by the end the drama has literally chased the early comedic routines away. The performers come and go, but Lodato's appearance about half-way through was enough to put the movie over the top. She just shines in a film of illuminated darkness and ultimately steals the show from Castellito by the heart-breaking finale. Tornatore was able to grab everyone with "Cinema Paradiso". Regardless of whether you liked that film or not, you should have cared for the primary characters. "The Star Maker" is a little more difficult in that regard. It holds its audience at arm's length most of the time and almost never hugs as tight as it should have. The final haunting scenes are reminiscent of the emotionally-charged montage to the magic of motion pictures in "Cinema Paradiso" and thankfully by that point most everything was presented well enough to make "The Star Maker" an important and worthy addition to the Italian world of films. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Master director Tornatore returns to the same subject of his wonderful Cinema Paradiso: a movie about movies. This time, at the end of the forties, a bad guy goes on the road of a very poor Italia pretending to be a scout for movie studios of Rome. But, in fact, his camera was stolen and had no tape in it. He steals money from these poor people full of dreams to become movie stars. Sometimes, they talk with their hearts with very deep emotions, but the man don't care. One day, a teenager takes very seriously her faith to be a movie star and goes with the bad man. Her love tortures the man. This is a strong statement about celebrity, dreams and poverty. Sergio Castellito, one of the best actors of Italy, gives a very strong performance, so is the charming young Lodato (Gee! Isn't she beautiful?) This movie is one of the best of the risky genre of movies about movies. For me, it's the third best of the kind, after Woody Allen Purple Rose of Cairo, and, of course, Cinema Paradiso. See this movie! It's a very moving intelligent piece of European savoir faire.
Joe Morelli (Sergio Castellitto) is a flimflam man who is driving
around the rural villages of Sicily shortly after World War II selling
potential stardom for fifteen hundred lira. He has a motion picture
camera and loudspeaker on his truck. As he drives through the villages
he broadcasts to the people that he is from the film industry of Roma
and he is giving screen tests in order to discover natural talent.
He sets up his truck and tent typically in the town square. His technique is to tell everyone that they have a wonderful face, hidden talent, that they are naturals and diamonds in the rough. He hands out fliers with some dialogue from "Gone with the Wind" on them that they should practice reading before appearing before his camera. He has discovered that people will fall for his flattery and pay him for the fake screen tests.
As we watch the film we discover that people will put their hearts and souls into the experience of appearing before his camera. They don't just read the lines from Gone with the Wind. They tell their life stories in miniature. They bare their hearts and souls to the flimflam man in the hope that someone will hear and see their anguish, their pain, their experience. To Morelli, who has been to Hollywood and failed, this is just a way to make a lira. He has a gift for the hustle and is blind to the real emotion that he evokes.
A woman believes his teenaged daughter has the talent to make it in the movies. She begs Morelli to take her to Roma. She even has sex with him and promises to allow him to be her daughter's first lover. But Morelli moves on to the next town. He is stopped by the local police chief, but Morelli manages to flatter him into appearing before his camera and then applauds the chief's performance. Three highwaymen stop to rob Morelli. He is able to convince them that Roma longs for their raw talent. And so on, as he travels over the cobblestones and over the winding roads.
Finally he meets beautiful Beata (Tiziana Lodato) who is 15 or 18. She isn't sure. She works in the convent, bathing the sick and scrubbing the floors. She exposes herself to the local tax man to raise the 1500 lira needed for Morelli's screen test. She is strikingly beautiful from head to toe, and the tax man exclaims, "You are a statue!" when he sees her body. Morelli is reluctant to get involved with someone so young even though she throws herself at him.
What happens after this I will not say since it would spoil the film for those who have not seen it. But watch for the con man to get conned, among other things. Despite his villainy, there is a sense that Morelli is a man that we can identify with and understand. I think it is this quality that director Giuseppe Tornatore has developed in his character that carries the film, and Sergio Castellitto whom I saw recently in Non ti muovere (Don't Move) (2004) really becomes the part.
Tornatore, who made a splash with the critically acclaimed Cinema Paradiso (1988) wrote the original material here and worked on the script in addition to directing. While I thought Cinema Paradiso was an excellent film, I liked this one even more. Both are original works of art, but I found L'uomo delle stelle more engaging. Particularly striking are the beautiful village scenes, the faces of the people, and the photography of the Sicilian countryside and ruins.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
In Guiseppe Tornatore's 'The Starmaker', Dr. Morelli travels around post-war Sicily offering to turn people into movie stars. He is, of course, a con-man, but in giving the people a space to vent their dreams, he actually performs a kind of public service. It's a nice idea, and there are some charming details in the film, but as a whole, this movie is somewhat contrived and it runs of the risk of representing the Sicilian peasantry as little more than idiots. Some of the same themes (the death of traditional but impoverished societies, the desire of their inhabitants to escape to a new life, the semi-racist superiority of money-making outsiders) are dealt with more obliquely, but also more cleverly and in a broader context, by Guilo Amelio's breathtaking 'Lamerica', another Italian film made at about the same time, which I would heartily recommend.
The Star Maker tells such a simple story that I was puzzled as to why its emotional impact grew long after I had seen it. It relates a series of encounters of con man `Dottore' Joe Morelli (Sergio Castellitto) with his marks. Like all con men, he sells dreams, in this case dreams of stardom, and some of the emotional power derives from the universal appeal of this con. In part the power lies in the cinematography of contrast and illusion. The contrast of the physical beauty of Sicily with its poverty alone is sufficient to grab your attention. But the most powerful contrast is seen in the faces of the Sicilians during their screen tests. Giuseppe Tornatore magically captures the hopes and the desperations of his would-be stars as they appear before the `Dottore's' camera. They have two minutes to sell themselves and to escape their destiny of poverty and capture their life's ambitions. Then there is the hero's moral dilemma. This is an `everyman' story; `il Dottore' is another poor guy who does what he can just to get by. He grabs our sympathy by demonstrating sympathy for his marks and by making some exceptional decisions along his way. While I was watching, it appeared to be no more that a series of loosely connected tales. Soon afterwards, the complexity and the moral strengths of the tale grew on me and continue to pleasantly persist.
A fast-talker rolls through postwar Sicily selling the dream of movie
stardom, and in the process uncovers the desires and desperation of the
townspeople. Like a patent medicine salesman, he seduces them with the
magic of cinema, more potent than anything from a bottle.
Be prepared for the movie to seduce you, too, with its gorgeously chiseled Sicilian landscapes and faces viewed through the soul-baring lens. It gives a good view of the toughness of Sicily, and every frame has a visual richness typical of Italy itself. If you listen hard, you can make out the Sicilian accent -- even if you don't speak Italian. You'll be able to predict some of what happens, but not all, and the characters and their profiles will linger with you longer than you might expect.
Emotions of enthusiasm break down in sensitive portraits of poor Sicilians who reveal their inner self in two minutes they have in front of a camera. Realism all the way and yet i had to think of the enthusiasm Kusturica had in Black Cat White Cat although none of the characters are that absurd. If you see European movies like this after all the American commercial rubbish you get a glimpse of what film can give us! Good acting and writing, beautiful locations, a lot of strong character studies and very, very impressive camera work. Absolutely not a waste of your time!
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