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Zoran, il mio nipote scemo (2013)
A tiny movie with a heart
This tiny movie made in a remote corner of Italy that basically even Italians don't really know is a delight. You know exactly what's going to happen plot-wise, but you still enjoy every bizarre minute of the ride: the absolutely realistic characters (Roberto Citran's prim and proper 'nice husband' with a nervous streak, the assorted drunkards in the Osteria...), the absurdist humour, young Zoran's Buster Keaton- ish demeanour. Giuseppe Battiston, the protagonist, is a big star in Italy and I hope his "bastard with a heart of gold" character shines through even to people who don't speak Italian. His charisma equals his constantly expanding girth. I actually *clapped* at his five-minutes monologue at the psychiatrist's, which I have the feeling he improvised on the spot, just loving the crescendo he was building. The whole movie is a no-budget piece of bravura and a great debut for the director; I'm looking forward to his next movie.
La migliore offerta (2013)
Fifteen minutes on the cutting floor....
....and this would be perfect.
Paradoxically, there IS such a thing as too much beauty, too many visually arresting scenes, too much sweeping Morricone music (!), too much dialogue perfectly acted by big stars.
There is a point about three-quarters into it when you feel like having eaten too much of a wonderful cake, and you lose interest and wish they would move on with the plot already!
Cutting some minutes would have made it a better experience. It is a beautiful movie, but at nearly two hours it isn't as amazing as I was hoping at the beginning.
A very good approximation of Italy.
I'm Italian, so I was curious to see the show because it claimed to portray "real" Italy, not the oh-it's-so-lovely-in-Tuscany crap. Pretty accurate. I won't go into the detective plots, which are average at best and full of implausibilities (also, the reality of Italy in 2010, with Berlusconi in charge and all that it implies, surpasses any fiction... :-/ ); I won't complain if a guy throws himself from a balcony of a prostitute in full daylight and it doesn't make the news or cause a new investigation: the show thrives on visuals, on quirky dialogue and on its actors. And Rome itself looks like the most beautiful place in the known universe - which it basically is. Some scenes are so lovingly shot in golden light that you nearly feel the heat in those narrow alleys, in the eternal Italian early Summer that Zen probably inhabits.
Rufus Sewell is absolutely Italian, totally rocking the suit-and-sunglasses look (if you think he looks pretentious walking around like that, try walking through central Rome any day; guys like that are a dime a dozen here). He also nails the body language - in CABAL, the face he makes when Arianna tells him she is "a lady of the night" is really "in a different language" compared to how British actors would ever react, and the scenes with his Mom (who by the way is a French actress but nobody apparently noticed the different accent) perfectly express the way Italians feel forever 12 when under the scrutiny of their Mamma.
I didn't mind that each character spoke in their own accent, it doesn't distract much; however Caterina Murino is really unintelligible, heck, I have much less of an accent and I'm not even in showbiz. However she just needs to be there, look beautiful and wear improbable garish blouses (THOSE are really fictional, no Italian woman in an official environment like a police department would wear them; definitely some male fantasy of what a desirable Mediterranean woman must look like). She doesn't seem to have much personality yet, we'll see if it gets better later. I wonder what is the point of Francesco Quinn's character, but I also guess they're just introducing him for the next stories.
Zen (yes it's a real Venetian name, it sounds more like Tzenn) is no hero and is actually often rather "sfigato", which is a refreshing change from all those heroic American cops or the tortured musings of a Wallander. It will be really funny when this show - a co-production - gets dubbed into Italian and shown on our TV. People will find all kinds of faults with it. But you see? I'm being really Italian! I already see the worst-case scenario! People like me are the kind of world Zen lives in, and he's perfect in it.
Half of a virtuoso piece
Two years spent salivating on this project. Anton Corbijn directs a biopic about Ian Curtis! Can life get any better? ooh well. It came out as a weird documentary with maximum emphasis on two aspects at opposite end of the spectrum and, unfortunately, some shallowness in the middle.
It's directed by whom I consider the best living photographer; I've been a lifelong fan. And he won't disappoint me about his visual talent: every single scene in CONTROL is visually perfect, pure Corbijn, perfectly balanced black and whites, nearly mathematical composition (a scene of Curtis asleep at his work table made me gasp for its total formal beauty, algebra in black and white).
Beautiful, are they? Imagine two hours of this- - - - - The mind never really gets into the flow of the story (at least, MY mind never did): it was like watching that Corbjin exhibition in Groningen in 2000, where I walked slack-jawed in the museum halls. As much as I love Corbjin's work, I find that his virtuossism here may be distracting if you're a fan.
So, the cinematography is outstanding. The other outstanding thing is the acting by this kid I've never heard, Sam Riley, (born in 1980 bless him), who plays Curtis. At the beginning one is suspectful: the kid is way too cute, one fears that his good looks will be distracting. But you slowly come to respect and admire his performance: he has Curtis nailed down. (We must remember that the movie is based on Curtis' wife's memories, and she may have quite a chip on her shoulder, but the other members of the band AND Tony Wilson are VERY much alive and kicking, so I trust that all the facts are punctual and realistic).
This is, simply, the story of a weak kid who got himself in a situation that was too big for himself, and he didn't know the way out. "When everything was simpler", as he says around the end of the movie, he had hastily married and had a child; he was in a small band and playing gave him pleasure. Then things became too much: he developed epilepsy, the drugs for it were a constant torture and made him drowsy, he fell asleep at work, lost his job; he quickly got tired of his wife and showed no kind of emotional relationship with his little daughter (whom he only looks at with disconcert; she is another cause of his losing control over his own life); a gorgeous Belgian lover quickly became more of a pain than a relief, as he obviously gets discovered by his wife, and he finds himself in the middle of a tug of war between the two women. Worst of all, "he is becoming quite famous now", but he has lost the enjoyment that music gave him, he thinks the public doesn't understand him, one night he actually refuses to go on stage (and when he finally does, the strain of it gives him an epileptic attack). In his view, there is nothing left living for. End of it.
Sam Riley is surprisingly good at conveying Curtis' slow descent into hopelessness. The director sure makes him cry an awful lot, but one fears that Curtis was exactly like this in real life. He was simply a kid, too weak for the kind of life that he could have had and that looms over him like a threat more than a promise - global success, money, a loving wife, a daughter and God knows how many lovers, Belgian or not. Riley's performance is restrained, he never goes over the top, not even towards the end. I suspect that the son of the Calvinist pastor surely would never have allowed him; all the performances are dignified and restrained, even Samantha Morton as the very patient wife (perhaps too normal a wife for him? One gets the feeling they didn't really connect; "she loves to live in Macclesfield", Curtis whines) is not too emotive: this is a very everyday tragedy.
So, the lead actor is good and the cinematography is good. What's left in the middle - the MOVIE itself - is a bit disappointing, more a documentary than a movie. Nobody explains us what was in the young musician's mind, HOW the band, who up to that moment had grown listening to glam rock - as the soundtrack lavishly proves - came out with such a different, restrained sound; the band gets more and more famous but we have no perception of that if not by some awkward dialogue ("boys, we're getting bigger! We're going to America!"), so the audience can't really feel what influence fame had on Curtis. Luckily there are no big musical moments, just snippets: after all this is not a movie about Joy Division, it's a movie about the strange, depressing and depressed boy who fronted it.
Is it worth seeing? Oh yes, everyone will go. Non-Corbijn fans will have a better time than I did, because they will see the movie, not the cinematography. Would I buy the DVD and keep it forever? No. 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE is more effective in describing Curtis' short life with some emotion - and that was a *comedy*.