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Robert De Niro,
Relationships 101 of a Northern Italian man in his 30s
Seen at a encore performance of the 2009 Italian Film Festival in Melbourne, Australia it was a dark wet mid spring night and a 9pm session Fri night for the Man Who loves. As a bit of a follower (not necessarily admirer) of Monica Belluci's work and films the temptation was too much!
Synopsis Courtesy of a quick Google search... "What does a man feel when he is left by the woman he loves? And what about when he discovers he is not in love anymore and decides to put an end to a love story?
The love recounted in the film, Robert's love, is an absolute love, the kind that breaks your heart or fills your life with joy. An adult film about love, talking about passion from a male point of view. The man who abandons and is abandoned, becomes persecutor and then victim"
This has quite a dark, sombre feel at times. The opening credits with a slightly maudlin violin playing in the background and a very interesting arrangement of images ranging from what looks like old handwriting from Leonardo DaVinci, pieces of Dali like work lead us into modern Torino in Piedmonte Italy where our male lead character Roberto is a pharmacist working in a small shuttered pharmacy with an older woman pharmacist whose probably the owner of the shop. Digressing slightly the works of art in the opening titles are in fact from an exhibition put on by Belluci's character who put together a collection of works from a range of people who have spent time in mental institutions... stretching the memory here somewhat!
This is a story of relationships. The pharmacists mum and dad are happily married and retired on the Italian Lakes...it looks a bit like up around Bellagio out of Milan.. and a few trips the 2 sons make there are treats to the eye. The pharmacists brother is gay and in a relationship with Yuri...the relationships here are better balanced as while the two men are in a relationship Yuri has his own place and his boyfriend lives in a communal house.
Looking in of course it's quite easy to pick holes and see faults in other relationships. Lead actor Pierfrancesco Favino as Roberto is very swarthy and here his character seems to be a man of few friends and not too many interests. He has a small bolt-hole apartment, is not a great cook. He's definitely male and macho but perhaps lacking interests and passions outside his work and as a result perhaps you could say he's needy in relationships.
There's a bit of time-shifting at work here I think as the film open with him and Belluci "hard at it" when in fact her character Alba is his 2nd relationship in the film. Must admit it was a definite change for Belluci for me (perhaps I'm underestimating some of her other roles). Here her character is soft, emotional and touches the heartstrings more than normal. Looking back I often think Belluci's characters are hard and somewhat one dimensional. Here her character is normal, she's never looked better and the performance is touching. Withouut going into it too much, any man who wants to leave Belluci and her character here surely needs more than a few pills and an analyst.
There's also a very poignant and insightful scene between Roberto and his pharmacy owner played by Marisa Paredes where she describes the pain of being left by her husband 12 months before more than likely for another woman or the ex husband now has a new partner. In her 60s In some ways I thought Roberto may have been better spending some time in his colleagues bed but that was not in the script.
The Man who loves is a film about a man who loves and leaves. One relationship he pursues to the bitter end and who of us men (and perhaps women) have not been there and as far or not quite so far as here. This relationship he was supposed to be the one more in love than the woman. The second relationship the beautiful Belluci is a more even match and perhaps she's the one more into him than he into her.
Sadly Roberto is a darkish, sombre character at times. Truly he needs to have a good shave, get off his medication or onto some other and to commit and get into life. Perhaps neither of these women were suitable for him? Or is it that he cannot properly commit and build a relationship. THe truth may be somewhere in between.
Being a 9pm session at the end of a working week and perhaps 9.20 by the time some technical problems were worked out this felt like a very long 102 minutes. It had a good pace i thought until 2/3 of the way in and then the story seem to go round in a time-shifting circle.
Nonetheless an honest and insightful look at relationships of a man in his 30s who may love but cannot really commit. For those of us who've been in our 30s perhaps the 20s are more romantic and 40s and 50s are more settled.
If this was a French film I'm sure it would have been more romantic and the male character more rounded. Being Italian and of this genre and having Belluci on board it's a drama and a lot more raw.
Bravo Belluci! You are putting together an impressive range of films and work with many more I'm sure to come. I wonder if there's a romantic comedy out there somewhere for you or a strong, powerful, independent character for you. Perhaps an Italian Volver in which I loved Penelope Cruz? We see a more tender side here with Alba. I continue to follow!
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