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La cura del gorilla (2006)
Back to class Italian 'giallo'...
For anyone who appreciates black humor and Italian 'gialli', and by that I mean the real Italian thing, not the many glossy, racy flicks with the beautiful girl, films which are more trashy than the most 'American' of Hollywood action films... then this is a refreshing return to form. Bisio plays a schizophrenic bodyguard-cum-detective (a 'gorilla' in Italian is a minder) who always finds himself, seemingly against his will, slap bang in the middle of the action. The two characters represented by his split personality are polar opposites, the only thing they agree on is that they leave each other notes to fill in the missing pieces when one takes over from the other. The film opens with what is supposedly Gorilla's last spat with the vile criminal underclass, but of course things don't go the Gorilla's way; an incidental meeting with a feisty Stefania Rocca, who works at a social center for immigrants, throws him right into a complicated tale of exploitation, prostitution, illegal immigration and murder. The themes dealt with couldn't be more relevant, though they are considered from a different point of view to what we are always reading about in the papers about waves of immigrants invading the country. This film touches sensitively on the issues hidden from the newsroom cameras. The whole tale is framed by Gorilla's relationship with an aging American actor, played by Ernest Borgnine, brought to Italy to promote a new video game based on the cowboy films of old which he once appeared in. An initially conflictual relationship, the two surprisingly find that they both have something that the other needs, and that how the world sees us isn't set in stone. Borgnine's character has some interesting lines on how older people / stars are viewed and treated. Excellent acting from all the main actors, especially Rocca, admirable not just for her expressive and persuasive acting, but also for her refusal to bow to the demands of an industry led more by the plastic surgeon's scalpel than the director's hand. When I went to see this film it was being shown in the smallest of screening rooms in the cinema... I hope that it will get 'promoted' to the more spacious parts of the cinema, and that it is just one film in a new wave of genuine Italian detective films.
La tigre e la neve (2005)
Benigni seeks to win the heart of the woman of his dreams despite many adversities... war in Iraq, pig-headed camels and lack of interest on the part of his beloved.
A pleasant, perhaps very pleasant, two hours spent watching Benigni do his stuff in Italy and Iraq, though I have yet to decide if I really wanted to see another film about him chasing the woman of his dreams, especially as I can never decide if said actress is limited in her acting ability, or if she finds herself constricted by the rather reductive roles she finds herself interpreting. That said, Reno is excellent as the Iraqi poet in exile in France, firstly as a thought-provoking contrast to Benigni's over-the-top enthusiasm, and secondly because he is the politics that are touted when they describe the film as political. The poet's reaction to his return to his native land after many years in exile is an understated, but strongly felt, message. Of course there is also a message, and many jibes, in the humor of Benigni... about young American soldiers in Iraq, the chaos that still reigns in the country after the fall of the old guard and the naivety with which westerners view both culture and war. Great to see Tom Waits on screen again, though with an uncharacteristically romantic song, and for those who are interested, Waits does play 'the musician' and not a speaking role. The jury's out on how convincing the parent-child relationship was, Benigni seemed to be speaking to two small children, not teenagers. And Fox, though a good actress, played a rather mono-dimensional love interest here. I had the pleasant surprise of coming across them making this film while I was passing through Fiumicino airport earlier in the year- the humor that draws people into the cinema halls is even more vibrant live.