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La meglio gioventù (2003)
the best of bourgeoisie
As an Italian who goes abroad sometimes, I was often confronted with people asking me how come I had not seen this movie. And I had pretty much liked "I Cento Passi" and "Pasolini un delitto italiano", and loved "Maledetti vi amero'", from the same director. Still, there was something in the way people spoke about this movie that made me doubt. Or maybe it was something about the kind of people who liked it.
While watching this movie you realize that there are three families that are involved in pretty much every important event in contemporary Italian history. One is more a collection of families, called Cosa Nostra. The other one is a peculiar kind of family: a fraternity called P2, which is ruling the country by now. The third one? It's the Carati family, of course! From the red terrorism of late 70's to the bombs of early 90's, there seem to be no major event where they are not directly involved. Does it seem an unlikely kind of plot? Well, if you package it as a neat and cheesy TV product it seems to work pretty well, given the amount of enthusiastic reviews and high rates it received here. Plus, it's 6 hrs long, so it must be good cinema, right? I must admit I was initially captured by the '68 scenes. It must have been the music. As the reel went on I quickly realized that the young rebels being portrayed were of those kind that made Pasolini stand for the police: well grown and well fed sons-of-someone bourgeois. But look, they're so open and tolerant with the lower class, they even have a friend who's not studying (Vitale).
The more it went on, the more I was appalled by the TV-ish acting (all except maybe Lo Cascio). Wanna look angry? Curl your eyebrows and talk louder, it will work. (SPOILER) I was soon emotionally detached from the whole thing to the point that I cheered when the cop jumped out of the window. And when the aging bourgeois Nicola calls the now successful builder Vitale to restructure the "casale" he bought on the Tuscany hills.. oh, my heart was filled sheer proletarian rage.
Il cartaio (2004)
worst Argento ever
I can't believe I could stand it until the end. I had paid for it, but that's not an excuse. Maybe I just wanted to see how bad it could get. The acting is terrible. Muccino is particularly annoying, but that's no surprise. The characters are barely sketched. You have the sensation that Argento took some quick note for each of them on a paper napkin, and never went beyond that. Like the obituary doctor who likes to dance. The plot makes no sense at all. The way it is unfolded, makes it even weaker. I mean, we are talking about the director who could show you the assassin at the very beginning of the movie, without you actually seeing. Here the details that could help you discovering the killer's identity are unveiled only at the very end. And it's not even scary. Argento is definitely gone. Forget him.
Brutti, sporchi e cattivi (1976)
not a comedy
I would not call this a comedy. Maybe a tragicomedy. It is true, some scenes are funny. But that's not the point. The point is to give an hyper-realistic, painful portrait of extreme ignorance and poverty, and its consequences. These people cannot afford to be good, honest, or have any positive family feeling. Like prisoners in a Nazi camp, they are deprived of all their humanity. The only thing that keeps the family united is the shack they live in, and the idea of taking Giacinto's money. I want to stress the fact that the movie _is_ realistic. There _were_ shantytowns around Rome in the seventies. And the people _were_ like that. The constantly mocking and jocking attitude is a trait of the Roman popular culture. It does not mean they're happy and light-hearted. So beware, this movie won't just give you a good laugh. If you like it, check this out as well, I don't think you can buy it, but the Italian RAI TV showed it some time ago:
Yankees, please, stop reviewing Italian movies!!
I can't believe so many people gave negative comments about this movie. And I have to say, I'm getting tired of people giving negative comments on a movie from a foreign country, about which they know nothing, after seeing a badly dubbed version.. This movie is great. It's amazing, though not surprising, how Citti can keep your attention up without ever leaving the casotto.. I'm actually surprised that people found it boring. I was planning to see the beginning of it, and go out, but I just could not stop until the end. You follow a few parallel stories from a fixed point of view, sort of similar to Scola's "La cena", but kind of lighter, even though I wouldn't call this a comedy. It is a bit surrealistic, but in a very realistic and convincing way. It features a lot of the best actors of the time, including Tognazzi, Melato, Proietti, Stoppa.
So what's wrong with you guys? Reading comments to Italian movies, I sometimes have the sensation that the few Americans interested in Italian movies are just looking for the sleazy details, and completely miss or misunderstand all the rest. There's a lot more to Italian movies than sleaze. If you willingly watch one, and don't get it, before firing up low votes and negative comments, please consider the possibility that, well, yes, maybe something was "lost in translation".. and it might not just be the lines, but also the tone, accents, gestures, dressing codes, cultural, social and historical background... For example, the attitude of the two girls, hanging around with two guys and hoping they will get food for free, might sound unlikely in a "Sex and the city" episode, but looks perfectly natural in the Rome of the seventies.
Most Italian directors put no effort in making their products available to foreigners, and even when they do, you still see a different movie if you're from here. Just don't blame it on the movie!
If I were to advice one movie by Lina Wetrmuller - one of the finest Italian directors ever - it would be this one. For this and other movies, you miss a lot of it if you're not Italian, both for the language and for the politics. It is also one of the most political, as it gives a rather crude display of how the industrialized north of Italy exploited the manpower of the less developed south. But it's also a moving love and passion story, and an hilarious comedy. Also, the Giannini-Melato duo is at its best. SORT OF A SPOILER AHEAD: I think the message it delivers is rather a pessimistic and disillusioning one: Mimi' tries to keep his political ideals and his (relatively to his background!) advanced view on love and relationships, but is then bound to fall back to his conservative cultural heritage: on the sentimental side, he's still too jealous of his wife to let her live as free as him; on the political side, as he says in the end, "they're all cousins!" - there's no point in fighting the collusion of political, economical and criminal power that we still have in Italy..