My Best Enemy (Il Mio Migliore Nemico)
A recent smash
hit in Italy, Carlo Verdone’s My Best
Enemy (Il Mio Migliore Nemico),
happens to be an old fashioned buddy movie with
two unlikely nemeses coming together for the love
of a girl: One happens to be her boyfriend, the
other, her father. How these two misfits end up
together provides the comic journey that is the
(Carlo Verdone), the CEO of a hotel chain owned
by his wife and brother-in-law, accuses one of
his employees (Sara Bertelà) of stealing
and fires her on the spot. She cries to her son,
Orfeo (Silvio Muccino), who, urges Achilles to
rehire his mother--to no avail--then decides he
is going to ruin the adulterous Achilles’
life. Along the way, Orfeo falls in love with
the beautiful but troubled Cecelia (Ana Caterina
Morariu), who turns out to be Achilles’
in premise, My Best Enemy, proves fairly
cinematic in execution as the buffoonish Achilles
and the pitiful Orfeo find themselves coming together
over and over again as they try and destroy each
Muccino are hilarious to watch. Both take stock
characters and give them depth. The film is uniformly
well-acted. Verdone, who has helmed quite a few
films, (comics turned directors are fairly common
in Italy) has a gift for the absurdly heartwarming.
moves from slapstick to melodrama to road movie
and while nothing really new is achieved, it’s
certainly an enjoyable romp.
Quo Vadis, Baby?
Gabriele Salvatores (Mediterraneo) has
crafted a riveting, Noirish thriller-of-sorts
with Quo Vadis, Baby? The film focuses
on Giorgia (Italian rock singer Angela Baraldi),
a ballsy and brittle private investigator who’s
clients are mostly cuckolded husbands. Giorgia
receives a box of videotapes that her sister,
Ada, apparently recorded in the months leading
up to her alleged suicide sixteen years ago. Tortured
by unanswered questions, Giorgia soon finds herself
embarking on a probing physical and psychological
odyssey as she searches for clues to who her sister
really was and how she truly died.
protagonist of the film is quite reminiscent of
some of the American anti-heroes of the 1970’s--with
one notable difference, she’s female!
is anchored by the ferocious Angela Baraldi. Her
exquisitely detailed, powerfully searing performance
gives the film the fuel that allows it to soar.
Baraldi has a spellbinding quality and her hardened
face expresses so much of the character’s
pain and confusion.
is a revelation as Ada. Her performance exists
only via videotapes, yet it is an eerily disturbing
and bewitching turn.
Baby? is an absorbing and intense work, remarkably
photographed in an always-fascinating voyeuristic
style. Salvatores is to be commended for helming
an alluring mystery that is also a valentine to
Crime Novel (Romanzo Criminale)
theatrical viewing of Michele Placido’s
Crime Novel (Romanzo Criminale)
proved to me that it still remains one of the
best and most significant films I have seen in
quite a while. Yet, alas, the gem is still without
a U.S. distributor.
be a ghastly crime if this brilliant work did
not reach North American shores simply because
it is in a foreign language and has no “enchantment”
factor (unlike Il Postino and the ludicrous
Life is Beautiful) The film contains
a host of things Americans adore: sex, gorgeous
women, nudity, extreme violence, much gunplay,
the mob, hottie thugs, a loud classic rock soundtrack
and...a wicked desire for money and power. All
these VERY American delights and it still manages
to be an insightful and intelligent work that
manages to attempt to understand the criminals
who wanted to rule Rome while showcasing fifteen
years of Italian history.
From my Tribeca
Film Festival review:
If the challenging
and compelling Romanzo Criminale (Crime
Novel) is any indication, Italy may soon
prove to, once again, be a world cinema force
that demands our attention.
the popular Italian novel by Giancarlo De Cataldo,
Michele Placido’s sweeping saga chronicles
the rise and fall of a gaggle of gangsters spanning
two significant decades in Italian history. The
filmmakers are admirably uncompromising in telling
this multi-layered “true-ish” story
of power, passion, betrayal and revenge.
Criminale specifically depicts the life and
crimes of three ill-fated and misguided friends
and their followers as they kidnap, money-launder,
drug-traffic and murder their way through Rome
in the 1970’s and well into the 1980’s.
We are privy to their ruthless and ambitious climb
up the criminal ladder, aligning themselves with
the Mafia when they need to.
is both unrelentingly brutal and visually beautiful.
Placido is a master at keeping things moving (you
never feel the two and a half hour length) and
he obviously places a lot of trust in his actors,
a decision that is fully and richly rewarded.
ensemble are to be commended for their outstanding
work beginning with the dynamic Kim Rossi Stuart
who is simply smashing as the conflicted and seemingly
aloof, Freddo (Ice). As he proved in Keys
of the House, Stuart is an amazing actor
who commands the screen.
Lebanese, is a dark and diabolical figure. But
as portrayed by Pierfrancesco Favino, he is also
complex and intriguing. A nasty thug who admires
dictators such as Mussolini and Stalin and hubristically
compares himself to Roman Emperors, Lebanese is
redeemed by his deep love for Freddo. Favino’s
work is intense and astounding.
Claudio Santamaria rounds out the trio as the
congenial and clever Dandie.
has the difficult role of the proud Inspector
Clouseau-eque Captain Scialoja and manages to
bring depth and intelligence to a man insanely
obsessed with bringing down these hoods.
the whore Dandie loves, Anna Mouglalis steams
up the screen and captivates with a savvy and
sincere portrayal of a woman hellbent on surviving,
no matter the cost. Jasmine Trinca and Riccardo
Scamarcio are also quite excellent.
cinematography is stunning. He dares to fill the
screen with revealing closeups that are mesmerizing.
The score, costumes, production design and editing
are all outstanding.
brings to mind the best of Pasolini and Leoni,
as well as Scorsese and P.T. Anderson, but stands
on it’s own as a great piece of cinema.
does not currently have a U.S. distributor which
is sad and downright crazy when one considers
the crap that does get released here. Hopefully
that will change so Americans will have a chance
to see one of the best films of the year.
The Passion of Joshua the Jew (La
Passione di Giosue’ L‘Ebreo)
I have great
admiration for Pasquale Scimeca and what he is
trying to say in The Passion of Joshua the
Jew (La Passione di Giosue’ L‘Ebreo).
But admiring something doesn’t necessarily
mean liking it. Passion is a call for
religious tolerance at a time when the world needs
to take notice. Unfortunately, the film is ultimately
muddled and quite maddening.
opens in 1492 with Queen Isabella’s expulsion
of all Jews and Muslims from Spain due to the
Catholic strongarming of most of Europe. Born
into this world of persecution is Joshua, who
may be the Messiah. The disjointed narrative follows
the exiled prophet and his family as they journey
to Sicily where his behavior threatens the Catholic
powers-that-be. He is soon playing the role of
Jesus in a reenactment of the crucifixion.
promisingly enough but loses steam very quickly
and by the time we get to the long and plodding
denouement the film, pretty much, goes to hell
(no pun intended...I guess).
must applaud a motion picture where Muslims and
Jews are shown simultaneously praying to God in
their own respective ways, in the same room, in
the same frame.
Sacred Heart (Cuore Sacro)
(Barbora Borbulova) is a rich and powerful business
woman who, under the tutelage of her ruthless
Aunt (Lisa Gastoni), defines greed at it’s
merciless. Yet her life is about to radically
change. On an exploration of one of her family’s
properties that is about to be torn down, she
discovers a secret room her late mother used to
spend time in thirty years ago. Soon after she
has an odd encounter with a seemingly mercenary
young girl (the appealing and affecting Camille
Dugay Comencini). These two incidents and what
follows them will change Irene in deeply spiritual
ways. Sacred Heart is about that transformation.
work by Ferzan Ozpetek (Facing Windows,
His Secret Life) is a deeply contemplative
and commendable one whose heart is in the right
place. And while I appreciated a lot of this haunting
and intriguing film, it left me wanting more.
delivers a subtle yet potent performance as a
woman whose soul is at a crossroads, and she keeps
viewers enthralled throughout.
lovely notions of how we need to be more benevolent
and selfless are honorable but Irene’s metamorphosis
is not wholly explored and some of the plot felt
too contrived. The filmmaker has done better work
in the past.
Kim Rossi Stuart’s
Anche Libero Va Bene (Along the Ridge)
Stuart is a bit of a wonder. He’s one of
the finest actors currently gracing the celluloid
screens in Italy, etching a richly nuanced portrayal
of a misguided, morally paradoxic criminal in
also proven, in his maiden effort as director,
to be quite an assured and promising talent in
front of the camera.
Kim Rossi Stuart
Libero Va Bene (Along the Ridge--NOT
the literal translation which is grounded in a
line of dialogue that invokes a soccer term) is
a highly personal, profoundly emotional film seen
completely from the point-of-view of an eleven
year old boy who’s home life is in a state
plot revolves around Tommi (Alexander Morace)
who lives with his father, Renato (Kim Rossi Stuart),
and sister (Marta Nobili) after their mother,
Stefania (Barbora Borbulova in another extraordinary
performance), has abandoned the family. One day
Stefania returns setting the stage for many a
directs his actors to be as real as possible (both
Morace and Nobili are appearing in their first
movie) and the quiet torment felt by Tommi is
contrasted with Renato’s constant hotheadedness.
Yet Stuart is such a master film actor that we
always know there is a tremendous amount of love
behind the rants and raves.
his film to seep into melodrama, Stuart keenly
explores Tommi’s world as Tommi sees it
and, in turn, what we see is an exhilirating,
honest portrait of pre-teen confusion, angst,
The pic doesn’t
shy away from complexity of character, rather
it refreshingly basks in the mystifying behavior
of people. Renato obviously loves Stefania, who
cannot remain complacent as mother and wife. Although
Renato judges Stefania, the film does not. Commenting
about his mother’s return to his excited
father, Tommi wisely offer: “Anyway, she’ll
leave again.” Children tend to see things
we adults refuse to.
Libero Va Bene is a fantastic first feature
and, simply put, a treasure.