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The first 30 minutes or so made me hope for the best. Elio Germano is an actor with an extraordinary power to grab his audience and make us care, plus, the film seemed to move away from the (very good) book it is based on and go for the most engaging comedic aspects of the story. I knew it was too good to be true. Shortly after the film falls in a series of common places robbing us from the possibility to be surprised, engaged or even care. I wonder why it is that we - in Italy I mean - feel the need to visit the past though the same identical paths. To tell you the truth, I'm sick and tired of it. Can we tell stories that live out of its own strength. Politics, intellectual reflections without any, real, base on reality. We are known for protesting at a bar table, maybe go to a demonstration but at the end of the day we are going to do what we're told. Honestly or dishonestly. Could it be that, this relentless film revisions, is a tacit way to justify the fact that we've been so ineffectual in real life. We've been through everything and more but nothing has really changed. We're better identified by the Alberto Sordi characters like the one in "La Grande Guerra" by the great Mario Monicelli. My question is: If I, as an Italian, couldn't care less about the political mismatch of two Italian brothers, imagine the rest of the world. How confusing and ultimately annoying way to tell a story. There was a sort of uproar today, knowing that this film had not been selected for the official selection at the Cannes Film Fest. Hey, come on, think again. Why should it be? There is absolutely nothing new in it. Nothing! Riccardo Scamarcio continues to sleep walk through his film roles. He is beautiful but not nearly as magnetic as Elio Germano. I hope we'll wake up soon and realize that we won't change the past by revisiting it. That we are who we are and should look ahead to see what happens.
I rushed to see this movie, with Elio Germano, perhaps the best Italian actor of his generation, and Riccardo Scamarcio, the heartthrob of the moment. I got upset about the rejection from the snobbish Cannes Festival and I wanted to see the film by myself. Now, after having seen it, unfortunately, I have to agree with the Cannes decision. The film is a tired rehash of other books/films/TV done indifferently and boringly with two saving graces: Elio Germano's and Angela Finocchiaro's performances. The rest is, quite frankly, unendurable. The film felt long, long, long and I got more and more impatient and eventually angry with the whole thing. The Italian cinema that once was a power force of inspiring themes and ideas seems to have arrived to a total dead stop. The artists, I feel, with something new to say, like Libero Di Rienzo - have you seen his "Sangue" with Elio Germano as well? No, I bet you haven't. It was released in secrecy and for my money, his movie had something new to say in a totally new exciting way. I fear we, in Italy, can't move forward because we're trapped in some king of structure that it's terrified of new ideas. As a consequence we have films like this one. A throw back to the past and not in a nice way. Cannes? Are you nuts?
Based on the novel by Antonio Pennacci, "My Brother is an Only Child"
is a tale of two brothers growing up in Italy in the turbulent 1960s
and '70s. Though remarkably alike in disposition and temperament, the
two siblings, nevertheless, find themselves on opposite ends of the
political spectrum. Manrico (Riccardo Scamarrio), the older of the two,
is a committed Communist who rallies the workers in his town to stand
up for their rights. Accio (Elio Germano), his younger brother and also
the narrator of the story, is a hardcore Fascist who venerates
Mussolini and participates in violent protests against the Marxists. A
hothead and a bully by nature, Accio (the name actually means "bully"
in Italian) finds a convenient outlet for his rage and violence in the
thuggery and strong arm tactics he and his fellow fascists use against
their adversaries. Manrico and Accio have obviously had a tumultuous
love-hate relationship their entire lives, and things get even more
complicated when Accio falls in love with Manrico's girlfriend,
Francesca. But each man must ultimately decide where his true loyalty
finally lies - with family or with the ideological cause that moves and
empowers him. This becomes an even more complex question when one of
the brothers becomes increasingly disillusioned with the goals and
tactics used by his side, while the other grows increasingly
radicalized in his commitment to his.
Director Daniele Luchetti brings renewed life to the coming-of-age genre with his intense concentration on the sociopolitical elements of the story. It gets so bad between the two warring factions that even a performance of Beethoven becomes a pretext for bloodshed and violence. And the constant tussling between the two brothers - who can't seem to see eye-to-eye on anything except the girl they love - becomes a microcosmic reflection of the larger world around them.
Uniformly superb performances and naturalistic direction make this a complex and ultimately very moving study of brotherhood, family, maturity and commitment.
This film is a dilemma for me. The first half just bounced along. The
music was perfect. The energy pulled me along with it, seeing what felt
to me like real people's insight into the serious subject matter.
Interesting subject matter, interesting characters with motivation, who
I cared about. You do laugh at things, even when serious stuff is going
on most of the time. I didn't think it could get any better.
And then in a blink of an eye (about an hour in, maybe), it all went to pieces. It dawdled slowly through clichés. I felt like I knew what was coming, and I didn't even care. It was implausible, and at times boring enough for me to lose concentration.
Part of the problem is that it is (as another reviewer noted) about 20 minutes too long. How come are there film directors - talented ones - who haven't yet noticed that 90 minutes is generally enough? 8/10 for the brilliant first half.
There's this much to be said for this movie from the ranks of Italy's
new young directors and actors: The quality of the acting was at least
one notch above the usual fare, which almost never transcends the
clichéd facial expressions and intonations we expect to find in TV
dramas and sit-coms. This new generation of actors and directors was
raised on US television imports ("telefilms") and Latin-American soaps,
and it definitely shows in the uninspired and uninspiring quality of
their work. And one gets the impression that 90% of them come from
Parioli, a very well-to-do neighborhood of Rome, that would be the
rough equivalent of coming from Santa Monica, Lake Forest IL, or
Westport Connall those perfectly groomed faces coming from families of
the Italian haute bourgeoisie with unlimited funds to advance their
children's "acting career." If it weren't for Elio Germano as Accio (as
well as Luca Zingaretti as Accio's fascist mentor and Anna Bonaiuto as
his wife), this movie would probably fall into the same category of
banalized film-making with all the rest.
But Germano's performance is not enough to salvage a film that fails to rise above a rating of "mediocrity +". Certainly it was an interesting idea to situate the action in Latina, a city built from scratch by Mussolini's fascist regime after it had drained the surrounding swamp land (the "bonifica" that was one of Fascism's highly touted achievements). All of the city's architecture was inspired by fascist "monumental" design.
Regrettably, Luchetti has done little of interest to exploit this setting for his family drama other than to bring up the same old cliché of opposing extremisms (the thuggery of the neo-fascist right vs. the banditry and targeted terrorism of the extra-parliamentary left). And the drama of the conflict between these two extremisms is used altogether too much to drive the plot forward. Some Italian commentators disliked this film because it seemed to go over the same old ground in the same old waywhen it was time, presumably, to move on to new subjects. But the problem was not that it rehashed Italian historythe problem was the "hash." Bellocchio, after all, did a wonderful job of re-interpreting to Italians the experience of the Red Brigades in his "Buongiorno,Notte".
But here the audience is simply given a choice between fascist hooliganism and a lunatic left, when actually the situation in Italy in the 60s and 70s was much more complicated and nuanced. Millions of Italians belonged to parties and movements that were seriously committed to a progressive transformation of Italy that did not involve knee-cappings and assassinations. And so Luchetti ends up confirming (perhaps despite himself) the American/Berlusconiano vision of the world: "Forget about ideologyit's all about individual freedom and authenticity in your personal relationships." And finally we can see the effects of Berlusconi's TV stations and their ilk also in the movie's script. After 20, I stopped counting how many times the characters said, "Ma Che Cazzo Dici?"("What the f#%k are you saying?"). It is a measure of the moronization of the Italian public under the sway of Berlusconi and Berlusconian media that the scriptwriters think that they can get a laugh out of an Italian audience with this phrase each and every time it is saidand sadly they're probably right.
MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD ('Mio fratello è figlio unico') is a title
that may confuse the casual movie viewer, but it is an apt summation of
the rigorous story that this excellent Italian film by Danielle
Luchetti (adapted from a novel by Antonio Pennacchi) represents - the
coming of age of two brothers in the confusing and turbulent 1960's and
1970's in Italy. While the film deals with the myriad political
factions that disrupted life especially among the students of that era,
the main focus of the story is the indomitable brotherly love that
bonds the two main characters.
Accio Benano (Vittorrio Emanuele Popizo) as a child is a mischief maker who has entered seminary to become a priest, but his innate search for truth and meaning soon finds him returning home to his little family in a Mussolini-fabricated town called Latina, a village built on promises of communal well-being (a housing project was built but the poor villagers are refused access to it), but languishes in the poverty of lost hopes and deflated spirits. Accio's father, mother, younger sister and older brother Manrico (Riccardo Scamarcio) are making ends meet, but are frustrated with the political oppression of the working class. Time passes and the older Accio (Elio Germano) comes under the influence of Mussolini's 'idealism' with the tutelage of his older friend Mario (Luca Zingaretti) and embraces Fascism while Manrico has aligned with the communists, and it is this dichotomy of belief that sets Accio apart from his brother as well as his family who are communist sympathizers. Accio's personality places him in harms way with the law, with women (he has longings for the women in both Mario's and Manrico's lives), and ultimately with turns of events that threaten to pit brother against brother. The resolution of these conflicts makes for a fascinating study of familial ties, brotherly love, and a keenly observed sociopolitical history of Italy that is as enlightening as it is entertaining.
While Germano and Scamarcio are the obvious stars of this well acted film, the supporting cast (including such fine actors as Angela Finocchiaro, Massimo Popolizio, Alba Rohrwacher, Anna Bonaiuto, and Diane Fleri) is uniformly strong. This epic film demands full attention to the script (Italian with English subtitles) to follow the various political differences, but the tenor of the film is one of the excitement and concomitant love of two brothers coming of age in the best Italian style! It is a joy to watch and a lesson in history about which we should all be aware. Grady Harp
'My Brother is an Only Child' tells the story of two red-blooded siblings as they take their first steps into political and sexual adulthood in the Italy of the 1960s. It's an intriguing premise, but for me, it didn't quite come together. Specifically, the fascism and communism that its protagonists pursue seem obviously unappealing: the film fails to convey how anyone could follow such causes except out of immaturity, though there are some funny moments (the new leftist lyrics to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony the most obvious of them). At the end of the film, a housing scandal is exposed, but the film doesn't really explain how the scam had worked: the story would make sense if the houses in question hadn't actually been built, but in fact they have been, and one senses that the writer has resolved a happy ending without worrying too much about the details. What's nice about this film is its portrait of a place and a time, and the very believable love-hate relationship between the brothers; but if you weren't there yourself, perhaps its inevitable that you find yourself looking in from the outside.
Good Italian movies are few and far between the last I saw was
Zefferelli's "Tea with Mussolini", and before that, "Life Is
Beautiful". It seems that Italian movies, good or bad, are rare. If the
list in Wikipedia is anything to go by, Italy produces about ten to
fifteen features a year, far less than Australia.
This one is about growing up in a post-Mussolini, post-war world as a working class Italian. The narrator, Accio (Elio Germano), bright but temperamental, is not the most pleasant of people (his name means bully). At 13 he is sent off to a seminary by his long-suffering and pious parents but even though it's a fairly humane regime he doesn't last long. So it's back to the family's tiny, crumbling flat to grow up with his older brother, Manrico (Riccardo Scarmarcio). Rejecting religion, Accio comes into the orbit of the local fascists, though he is more interested in action than ideology. The handsome, charming Manrico becomes a communist, and beds Francesca (Diane Fleri), an attractive middle class girl who has joined the comrades. Naturally Accio gets interested in Francesca as well.
The story covers the period 1962 to 1968 and plenty of reference is made to the turmoil of the times, but basically it is about a textbook case of sibling rivalry. Acco and Manrico cannot keep their hands off each other in order to fight, that is. Acco however does manage to reach some sort of maturity at the end.
The story moves along at a good pace and there are plenty of funny scenes. The best one is the occupation by the communist students during the 1968 disturbances of the Rome conservatory where they perform Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" with the words changed to communist slogans, and are then invaded by the fascists crying "Don't mess with Beethoven" (actually the original words were from a poem by Schiller). The switch of actors (Vittorio Propizio plays the younger Accio) is accomplished in a particularly neat fashion, using a method I last saw used in "Conan the Barbarian" where the older actor is substituted in mid-scene.
In the background is Mussolini's legacy, an angry, confused and humiliated nation without a clear sense of direction. His 1930's "new towns" like Latina on the Pontine marches, jerry-built and badly designed, were crumbling already by the 1960s. Replacement housing had been built but corrupt local officials were holding up its allocation. There is a very satisfying moment at the end of the film when Accio, no stranger to causing a ruckus, takes remedial action.
Not being Italian I probably missed a lot, but the film held my attention for its full length, despite Accio not being a particularly nice lad (then neither was Genghis Khan and he had an interesting life). The film is bright, fresh and fast-moving though I'm not sure about the climax, which is rather on the melodramatic side. If the Italians can bring themselves to make more movies of this quality, I'll come along to watch.
The political backdrop of this 60s character drama is both nostalgic
and frightening - that disaffected and rebellious Accio finds himself
so easily taken in by a Fascist mentor strikes parallels with the our
own young men turning to extremism or street violence in a search of
identity. Accio clashes dramatically with his older brother, the hip,
good-looking communist, but the story not so much about political
ideals as their expression of familial jealousies and personal moral
The tensions and affections of this struggling working class family, portrayed by all with genuine emotion. The dialogue is witty and charming and not unlike other memorable Italian films (Il Postino, Cinema Paradiso) the characters come across almost too resoundingly. This gives the film a well-crafted theatrical quality, that is engaging, well-paced and very satisfying.
The film follows two Italian brothers growing up in the 1960s and 70s.
They both love the same girl but have very different political beliefs;
Accio is a fascist, Manrico is a communist. Predictably the main themes
are politics, romance and family. We see the brothers battling over
their ideologies, relationships and their parents' attempts to guide
them through their emergence into adulthood.
A very interesting story idea but it goes nowhere. It lacks depth, insights and fails to be believable. The film tells the story in a contrived, clichéd, predictable way and is ultimately cynical in the roles the characters are given and how they are expected to carry them out.
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