NEW ITALIAN CINEMA 2011

San Francisco Film Society Fall Season 2011
A wide ranging lineup of specialty film festivals

Autumn marks one of the busiest times of the year for film festivals, and the Film Society is doing its part to bring the best films from around the world to the Bay Area. The Fall Season—comprised of a growing roster of small, focused festivals—gives adventurous and inquisitive Bay Area audiences the opportunity to delve deep into carefully chosen film series and engage with bold filmmakers.
Hong Kong Cinema
Taiwan Film Days
International Children’s Film Festival
French Cinema Now
Cinema by the Bay
SF International Animation Festival
New Italian Cinema.

I’ve sampled all over the years, but the only one that consistently gets my attention is

NEW ITALIAN CINEMA

Presented in conjunction with New Italian Cinema Events (NICE)
This is my favorite of the sffs Fall Series of films and here’s what I (we) saw. [I give you the SFFS blurb followed by My Take. Sometimes the NICE blurb is included, as well.]

Ginger and Cinnamon
Daniele Luchetti



Monday November 14, 9:00 pm
Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinemas

Stefania is a slightly neurotic thirtysomething who has just broken up with her boyfriend. When her precocious 14-year-old niece Martina shows up on her doorstep begging to go on a virginity-losing vacation, the Greek island of Ios seems just the ticket for them both. Little do they know that Stefania’s ex, Andrea, is also headed to the same idyllic getaway for a summer job. As various farcical circumstances ensue, Martina falls hard for Andrea without being aware who he is while Stefania is pursued by a young suitor who longs for an older woman. Playfully examining the battles between genders and generations in a stunningly photogenic setting, Ginger and Cinnamon offers all the ingredients necessary for a piquant cinematic treat.

MY TAKE – It was what it says it would be. Shockingly, for a certified chick-flick, it was really well written and directed and the characters were attractive, likable and charismatic. Those wacky Italians are loads of fun.

One Life, Maybe Two
Alessandro Aronadio

Tuesday, November 15, 9:15 pm;
Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinemas

Young, semi-slacker Matteo is at the point in life where a number of options and life pathways remain open. Rushing to the hospital with an injured friend one night, he accidentally rear-ends a police car. But what if he hadn’t? Playing with weighty issues of fate and destiny and the violent impulse, this imaginative film dramatizes the different circumstances for its protagonist as determined by a pivotal moment. Referencing the French New Wave (The 400 Blows especially), director Aronadio has made a serious and provocative work depicting the narrowing of options facing today’s youth in Italy.
Due vite per caso, Italy 2010, 88 min. Written by Alessandro Aronadio, Marco Bosonetto. Photographed by Mario Amura. With Lorenzo Balducci, Isabella Ragonese, Ivan Franek, Riccardo Cicogna. Intramovies.

MY TAKE – It was what it says it would be. Not as literally as Ginger and Cinnamon (above), but as surely. In one life Matteo hits the police car and he and his friend are brutally beaten by the plain-clothes police and charged with resisting arrest and assault. This leads to lawyers and alienation and hatred of authority and government. While Matteo loves his job in a plant nursery, he feels he is underpaid, but is constantly told he must wait for advancement or recognition.
We are shown the crash scene again, and this time – in his other life – the car stops short. The police pay no matter and drive off. This Matteo is accepted by the Carabinieri (Military Police) for training (the other Matteo was rejected) and while he must leave a job he loves, he advances in pay and stature.
Although the two Matteos lead very different lives, neither is particularly happy or fulfilled. Alessandro Aronadio, the director, in his Q&A describes this as a national condition in Italy. There is no place for young people… they must wait.
Eventually, the two Matteos confront one another in a public square during a protest march. The Matteo of alienated youth versus the Carabinier Matteo.
A very very good film… very intense.

Or, as NICE put it in their synopsis:

Matteo (Lorenzo Balducci) is a guy in his early twenties who is still deciding what he wants to do with his life; he spends his spare time with his friends at a local bar, “Waiting For Godard”, and has a crush on a pretty barmaid (Isabella Ragonese). Under ordinary circumstances, Matteo takes an entry-level at a gardening supply company, meets a pretty girl from a well-to-do family (Sarah Felberbaum), and decides to enroll at the police academy and become a cop. However, what if one rainy night, while driving a friend to the hospital, Matteo hit a car instead of putting on the brakes in time? And what if there were two plain-clothes policemen in the car, and in a rage they beat Matteo to a pulp? Would he still go into law enforcement, or would he marry someone else and become an activist against the state?

And here art the films of Friday, Saturday and Sunday:

In my lapse between films, I discovered the N.I.C.E. synopsis and was intrigued by how they take a different point of view from the SFFS synopsis. And so… I include them both, followed by MY TAKE.

A Quiet Life
Claudio Cupellini
Friday, November 18, 6:30 pm
Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinemas

Buried secrets and a criminal past lead the proprietor of a swank hotel in Germany to desperate acts in this powerful drama from the director of Lessons in Chocolate (NIC 2008). When Diego and Eduardo, two young hotheads visiting from Italy on shady business, arrive at Rosario’s establishment, it is soon evident that they want more from him than just a place to lie low. Married to a German woman and with a young child, Rosario (Toni Servillo, unforgettable once again) pretends that he’s just extending a courtesy to his countrymen, but the motivations behind their visit become increasingly fraught on all sides until the hotelier is forced to protect the new life he’s built—at all costs.

N.I.C.E. synopsis —

Rosario Russo (Toni Servillo) lives in Germany where he manages an hotel/restaurant, together with his wife Renate (Juliane Köhler). His life proceeds quietly until one day in February two Italian men unexpectedly come into his restaurant: the first one is his son Diego (Marco D’Amore), whom he hasn’t seen in fifteen years, since Rosario had changed his identity and fled to Germany to lead a second life; the other man is Edoardo (Francesco Di Leva), the boss’s son of one of the most powerful camorra families. Diego was ten when his dad had disappeared and now that he is all grown-up, he has joined the Fiore clan and has been sent to Germany to commit a murder. Rosario has deeply changed and tries to prevent his son’s crime, but things get dramatically complicated and, nonetheless, something goes wrong…

MY TAKE – It was totally raining and I was on my scooter, so I decided, “No, I’m not in the mood for a heavy duty Italian drama tonight.”

The First Assignment
Giorgia Cecere
Saturday November 19, 6:30 pm
Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinemas

young Nena and her future husband

In 1950s Puglia, headstrong young Nena (Isabella Ragonese, also seen in Our Life and One Life, Maybe Two) is sent to a mountain village many miles away for her first teacher placement. Unhappily leaving her wealthy boyfriend behind, she faces a scruffy set of undereducated pupils and a group of locals suspicious of outsiders. Bored and depressed, she socializes little and faces gossip and accusations that she is unfit to instruct. Debuting director Cecere takes the time to depict the daily life of the villagers as Nena accustoms herself to the place’s traditions and pace. With a style that tells the story visually rather than verbally, this is a moving portrait of an independent woman attempting to overcome the restrictions placed against her.

N.I.C.E. synopsis —

1953. Nena (Isabella Ragonese), a young woman from Southern Italy, has to move far from home for her first job as a teacher. She is in a relationship with a young man from the upper class, who sincerely reciprocates her feelings, so that both are confident that distance won’t affect their love story. Nena leaves, both sad and curious about what is about to happen. But what she finds proves to be worse than what she had imagined: a wrecked school, rebellious kids, people with whom she has nothing in common. She holds on to the situation only because she is proud and because Francesco (Francesco Chiarello) also loves her for her courage. However, one cold day in February, their love suddenly seems to have vanished and Nena, feeling betrayed and desperate, lets herself go to an apparently wrong decision that will offer her the opportunity to grow up and be happy.

MY TAKE – It’s hard to imagine Nena’s situation and how crushingly boring it must be… but the director gives it a good shot — “With a style that tells the story visually rather than verbally” — with long close-ups of Nena’s face, as if we’re supposed to look inside and see her thoughts. At the same time, the scenes of her teaching the 7 kids in her school are fun and up-beat. Luckily, her personal story is simple; with the crushing news of her boyfriends philandering, she tries to destroy herself, but lives the adage – “if I’m not killed, I come out stronger.” In the end – not a spoiler – her wealthy boyfriend wants her to come back to him. She returns, but quickly realizes, no, she must go *home.*

Habemus Papam
Nanni Moretti
Sunday November 20, 6:30 pm
Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinemas

CLOSING NIGHT A pope on the lam forms the crux of this charming film about faith, psychiatry and the transformative power of volleyball. At the Vatican it’s time to select a new leader, and the conclave of cardinals selects a surprising choice named Melville. When it comes time to address and bless the public throng in Saint Peter’s Square, however, the candidate panics, and officials are forced to bring in a noted psychiatrist to stave off a crisis. Brilliant comic bits abound as the shrink is prevented from asking Melville any kind of substantive questions, and the situation deteriorates further when the pope escapes from the Vatican and begins exploring life on the outside. Sending up another powerful institution—the Church—as he did the Italian government in The Caiman, Moretti has crafted a light but resonant social comedy.

the Pope in analysis

N.I.C.E. synopsis —

The newly elected Pope (Michel Piccoli) suffers a panic attack just as he is due to appear on St Peter’s balcony to greet the faithful, who have been gathering and patiently awaiting the Conclave’s decision. The world is on tenterhooks, while in the Vatican they are desparately seeking ways to come through the crisis. Unable to convince the Pope that he is the right man for the job, they seek help from a renowned psychoanalyst and atheist (Nanni Moretti), commissioned to enliven the Pope’s lack of confidence and sense of inadequacy. But his fear of the responsibility suddenly thrust upon him is one that he must face on his own. Released in Italy just two weeks before the beatification of Pope John Paul II on May 1st, We Have a Pope was greatly acclaimed by the audience at the past Cannes Film Festival.

MY TAKE – “We have a Pope.”
Well, a Pope is elected and white smoke spews forth, but at his moment of glory, the Pope backs down the steps and ultimately eludes his captors (er… the papal handlers). This give the filmmakers a chance to have fun with Him in a secular environment… fun with the College of Cardinals who can’t go home until the Pope takes office… fun with “the world’s best psychoanalyst” and his former wife (or wait… she’s “the world’s best psychoanalyst?”)
Eventually, the Pope winds up back at the Vatican and …
And we had great fun in the meantime.

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