The New York Film Festival begins this Friday. But our screenings have already begun. Here is Glenn on two Italian films, "The Wonders" and "Misunderstood"
If Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning The Great Beauty (2013) was an ode to the fantastical visions of Federico Fellini's Italy, then Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders is an appropriate return to the world of the country’s famed neorealist movement of the 1940s and ‘50s, concerning itself with the economic and moral quandries of so-called everyday Italians. Coming in second place at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, it follows a family in rural Italy who scrape by due their honey farming, but an encounter with a television production in their hometown spearheads the eldest daughter’s desire to lift herself and her family out of the poverty line that they barely manage to survive above.
Perhaps Rohrwacher’s greatest achievement with The Wonders is the way she is able to authentically represent the rural life of this Italian family without reducing their countryside suffering to lazy miserabilist bleakness. Their world of naturalistic overcast greys and damp browns is countered by the beauty of a region. Rohrwacher lets these moments of beauty linger, too, punctuated by occasional fleeting figments of fantasy at the hands of the wonderful Monica Bellucci. Her appearance as the host of a (rather perplexing) TV show, adorned in billowing costume and pitch-white wig, brings to the film an extra element of surprise that shows the director as a keenly smart filmmaker who knows when to highlight the plight of her characters and when to allow them a reprieve. [More...]