SFiFF x: Romance and Cigarettes

USA, 115 minutes
Written and Directed by John Turturro

Cast: James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Kumar Pallana, Christopher Walken, Mandy Moore, Aida Turturro, Mary-Louise Parker, Eddie Izzard, Elaine Stritch and more.
John Turturro’s exuberant new film is many things: a warm, affectionate portrait of a working-class American family; an homage to the musical; a scatological celebration of outrageous behavior; an exploration of love and a vehicle for some of the world’s finest actors to let it rip in a deliriously over-the-top, no-holds-barred melodrama of the age-old love triangle. [SFiFF Program Guide]

The plot and moral doesn”t matter, just sit back and enjoy these wonderful actors doing wonderful things, it”ll come to you.

I laughed ‘til I cried.

Do yourself a favor and see this as soon as it comes around.

The Director John Turturro was there for Q & A. Some tidbits:
James Gandolfini is a woman stuck inside a man’s body, a sweet, sweet guy and a fantastic actor.
When we interviewed Kate Winslet for the role of Tula, she was too skinny for the role, but by the time shooting started, she had just had a baby, and was just right (as you will see).
Susan Sarandon, nearly my age, is still one of the most beautiful women on earth (wait, he didn”t say that, I did).
Turturro told a story of the Elvis impersonator character: When Elvis was bloated and on his way down, he was singing Suspicious Minds at a concert and forgot the words, so he sang, “blah, blah, de blah, a dollar and sixty seven cents.” That line is in the movie, with no explanation.
John Turturro chose the songs featured in this film before he had secured their rights. While waiting for Gandolfini to be free from shooting The Sopranos, the director went around to secure the rights from their songwriters and singers.
mrating * * * * *

So here’s what a real movie writer had to say: [from the Daily Scoop, the SFiFF e-newsletter]
‘Lebowski’s’ Turturro brings out sexy singer in ‘Soprano’ Gandolfini
– Ruthe Stein, Chronicle Senior Movie Writer
Monday, May 1, 2006

John Turturro showed no sign of surprise when asked to autograph a bowling ball at a San Francisco International Film Festival party Saturday morning. It’s hardly the first one he’s signed since playing a crazed bowler in “The Big Lebowski.”

“You know that movie did only so-so business when it came out (in 1998),” he told me, “but since then, people have become obsessed with it. I get sex notes from men and women. I looked very skinny in a jumpsuit, so I guess I appealed to both sexes.” Turturro wrote his usual epigram, “Do Not Ever F — With Jesus,” the name of his character.

Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville sent a messenger to the party with the ball, which was destined for a place of honor on a bar where employees gather. Turturro has casually talked to Joel and Ethan Coen, who made “Lebowski,” about doing a follow-up focusing on Jesus. Knowing now that the folks at Pixar are fans, Turturro jokingly suggested an animated sequel called “The Second Coming.”

The film he brought to the festival, “Romance & Cigarettes,” could well end up a cult classic like “Lebowski.” Although Turturro is best known as an actor, “Romance” is his third foray into directing. Its offbeat tone is reminiscent of the Coen brothers, but the originality is all his.

“Romance” stars James Gandolfini and Susan Sarandon as a long-married couple going through a rough patch when she discovers he’s cheating on her with a voluptuous redhead played by a red-hot Kate Winslet. The first sign that Turturro is up to something different comes when Gandolfini bursts into song, specifically “Lonely Is a Man Without Love.” He dances, too, backed up by garbage men and other working-class stiffs in a neighborhood in Queens.

“He’s quite a good singer,” Turturro said of the “Sopranos” star. “James is really a woman trapped inside a man’s body. Unlike a lot of actors, he is not very vain and always pays attention to actresses. There wasn’t one lady in the film who didn’t like working with him.”

Turturro started working on “Romance” during scenes in “Barton Fink,” when his character is hammering away on an old typewriter. “I thought I should really be writing something, so I wrote some ideas for a new film,” he said.

“Romance” was carefully scripted, except for the lascivious lovemaking between Gandolfini and Winslet. “All I wrote was that Kate should obliterate him. She came up with ideas I never would have thought of.”

The San Francisco International Film Festival is running through May 4. I”m volunteering and plan to attend as many of the films as I can work in to my schedule. Bear in mind that, for the most part, these are independent films and many have not been picked up for distribution, so they may not be playing at a “theater near you” anytime soon. On the other hand, some of the foreign films may have already been released in Europe.

As a public service, I will post brief reviews. My ratings are based on
5 stars ***** with a tilde ~ being half-a-star.

Happy viewing, or in any case, keep your eyes on rectorsite.com.


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