Contemporary Italian Cinema – un bel momentoPosted: September 21, 2015
I recently came back from Venice Film Festival after 9 days there as part of an arthouse cinema managing training course which I wrote about here and I returned to London even more of an Italophile than I left, also with a renewed enthusiasm for Italian cinema. It seems that Italian cinema is definitely having some time in the limelight at the moment which is great. Here’s a look at what’s coming up that there is to look forward to:
At the Venice Film Festival I saw A Bigger Splash directed by Luca Guadagnino – a funny, strange and visually stunning film centred around 4 characters, starring Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson.
Rock legend Marianne Lane is recuperating on the volcanic island of Pantelleria with her partner Paul when iconoclast record producer and old flame Harry unexpectedly arrives with his daughter Penelope and interrupts their holiday, bringing with him an A-bomb blast of delirious nostalgia from which there can be no rescue. A Bigger Splash is a sensuous portrait of laughter, desire, and rock and roll detonating into violence under the Mediterranean sun.
I really enjoyed this film, it looks incredible – as its based on a beautiful Italian island and for me Tilda Swinton steals the show being the goddess that she always is! However, it didn’t quite reach the pinnacle of Guadagnino’s previous film for me, I Am Love … even the poster artwork for that film is brilliant!
Paolo Sorrentino who won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2013 for The Great Beauty is back with a new film called Youth. Fred and Mick, two old friends, are on vacation in an elegant hotel at the foot of the Alps. Fred, a composer and conductor, is now retired. Mick, a film director, is still working. They look with curiosity and tenderness on their children’s confused lives, Mick’s enthusiastic young writers, and the other hotel guests. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his musical career. But someone wants at all costs to hear him conduct again. I haven’t seen this film yet but wait to, it looks like its going to be great – starring Michael Caine and Rachel Weisz so a good start!
Piero Messina was assistant director to Sorrentino on The Great Beauty and Messina’s debut feature film The Wait sees Juliette Binoche and Lou de Laage play women holed up in a Sicilian villa as they wait for, respectively, their son and boyfriend to return. I’m intrigued to see this film as I really loved Binoche in her latest big film Clouds Of Sils Maria.
A recent film from a this time female Italian director (Alice Rohrwacher) is The Wonders (Le Meraviglie). The film is about an unconventional family including four daughters who live in the remote Italian countryside, making their living through bee-keeping and the production of honey. The father of German origin constantly tries to re enforce that he’s the one in charge, although Gelsomina, the eldest daughter played by a first time actor is growing up fast and perhaps is the one who gets what’s going on better than the others. A main theme of the film is the idea of how ancient traditions and methods will have to give way to modernisation and the plot of the film follows a TV countryside competition that comes to the Etruscan area where the family is based. The performance of Alexandra Lungu who plays Gelsomina is really captivating in this film – dare you to look away as she does a trick with bees on her face… its all pretty weird but wonderful in this film. Monica Bellucci plays the hostess of the Countryside Wonders TV programme, as seen below. The film won the Grand Prix at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and has recently come out on view on demand.
Director Abel Ferrara has made a film about Pier Paolo Pasolini, one of the real greats of Italian cinema and more specifically, about his death with occured under suspicious circumstances. I studied Pasolini’s films during my undergraduate degree in Art History & Italian and really enjoyed getting into them. The films and man made an impression on me and I wrote my final year dissertation (in Italian) comparing the sacred and the profane in Pasolini and Michelangelo’s work. It’ll be interesting to see this film and I’ve read that Willem Dafoe plays the part of Pasolini extremely well. The film is distributed by BFI and is being screened currently, listed here
To almost finish, here’s a look at the result of the 9 day course that I did in Venice …
and while on that course, I met a talented Italian filmmaker with a wonderful documentary film that follows the process of creating one of Velasco Vitali’s famous dog sculptures, from wax to glazed bronze, at Fonderia Artistica Battaglia (Battaglia Artistic Foundry), in Milan. The film observes the work of a group of skilled artisans in this 100-year old foundry and reveals the ancient traditions of bronze sculpture making, unchanged since the Sixth century B.C. This film will be screened at the London Film Festival, as will a number of other Italian films, listed here.
Lastly, I’m excited to be collaborating with Cinema Italia UK at JW3 Cinema where I work, who I met when I put on a screening of the brilliant film Queen Of Hearts thanks to London’s Little Italy On Film, with screenwriter Tony Grisoni. Cinema Italia screen Italian films that would otherwise not be shown in the UK. I’ll leave you with the trailer for Queen Of Hearts, enjoy!