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Entries in Italy (36)

Friday
Apr292016

New Directors: Banana, Transpecos, Spa Night, and The Fits

One day I will figure out to keep up with the cinematic madness but April contained none of those days. A week ago the Nashville Film Festival wrapped and I have yet to share with you the prizes my jury bestowed! Not that you've been clamoring to read about films you've never heard of but one of the joys of film festivals is in the discoveries. Hence my great thrill to be asked to sit on the "New Directors Jury". Let's survey a handful of the competitors starting with the two winners, both of which made one step closer to theaters this week.

HONORABLE MENTION The Fits (2016)
I'm starting with this one because it's out very soon (June 3rd in NYC / June 10th in Los Angeles) and you absolutely shouldn't miss it. I'm already eager to see it again. We need directors with fresh voices and a unique gaze and we've got one in Anna Rose Helmer. The Fits follows a young girl named Toni (Royalty Hightower, pretty great) who spends her days helping her older brother with his job cleaning a boxing gym. She's fascinated by the boy rituals and the girl rituals which are happening just down the hall where a local dance squad rehearses in another gymnasium. Just when you think you've figured out the film's theme (there's certainly much to ponder in its gender dynamics) one of the dancers has a violent fit and faints and you realize Helmer has a lot more yet on her mind. There's no easy allegories here and maybe it's a little opaque but there's much to ponder in its metaphysical poetry, thoughtful camera work and editing and, above all else, its persistent fly-on-the-wall curiosity, the camera a soulful twin to Toni's ever-searching eyes. B+ (A-?)

Breaking News: The Fits got a poster (left) and a perfect moody trailer this week from Oscilloscope Pictures. 

More after the jump including an awards magnet which keeps winning festivals... 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Mar212016

La Dolce Linka

The New Yorker Richard Brody discusses the films he saw at SXSW as part of the narrative jury
Tracking Board has the audience award winners from SXSW
Spotify is now streaming the entire Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice score by Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL 
Fandor celebrates great female film editors in a new 5 minute video
Film School Rejects celebrates Mary Elizabeth Winstead's compelling humanity across multiple genres
Towleroad Sally Field on parents and gay kids

 

Vulture new Must Read column from Mark Harris on the Academy's diversification efforts
Deadline Teen Wolf star Dylan O'Brien has been severely injured on set of the new Maze Runner film. Production is shutting down for the near future...
Variety ...and director Wes Ball tweets and open letter to fans about the injury and Dylan's recovery
Guardian a biopic about Michael Jackson's chimp (no really) will be a stop motion animated feature
And So It Begins names 10 bad scenes in great movies: Carrie, Cape Fear, The Godfather Part II and more

Off Cinema
Boy Culture Madonna crosses $1B mark in touring, 3rd of all time now (after the Rolling Stones and U2) and #1 among solo artists
Gothamist Amy Schumer leaves massive tip for bartender at Hamilton on Broadway
EW You can now stream the full London Cast Recording of American Psycho (The Musical) starring Matt Smith free of charge. Benjamin Walker plays Patrick Bateman in the Broadway cast, which has yet to record a cast album since they're still in previews
Playbill Sunset Blvd, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musicalization of the 1950 classic is getting a semi staged revival starring Glenn Close in London. It starts on April 1st so if you're a London reader, please report back.  

Release Date News
The Lobster which keeps getting shuffled around has a new US release date of May 13th via A24; Sundance hit and Oscar hopeful Manchester by the Sea is going with November 18th as a release date; One of the Zeéeeee's comeback projects Same Kind of Different as Me (starring Djimon Hounsou and Greg Kinnear) pushed back nearly a whole year, now opening in first quarter 2017. 

Video To Go
I somehow missed this recent news about 81 year old Italian legend Sophia Loren. She just starred in a new commercial for Dolce & Gabbana commanding a hunky team of men. The commercial is scored by another Oscar winning octogenerian Italian legend Ennio Morricone. Here it is:

 

Monday
Feb152016

Berlin: Fire at Sea

Amir Soltani is covering the Berlin International Film Festival for The Film Experience this year, our first time at Berlinale!. Tonight, previous Venice winner, Gianfranco Rosi's Fuocoammare.

Gianfranco Rosi shocked the film world with his Golden Lion win at Venice for Sacro GRA a few years ago. At Berlinale, the true shock would be for his latest film, Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare), to leave the festival empty-handed. The Italian maestro’s seamless hybrid of documentary and fiction is a self-reflexive and compassionate meditation on Italy’s crisis of cultural identity in the face of an unprecedented wave of refugee migration.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Feb132016

Valentine's - A Room With a View

Team Experience is celebrating Valentines Day with favorite love scenes. Here's Lynn Lee on an 80s classic

Everyone who loves this film remembers The Kiss.  It’s the moment proper Edwardian girl Lucy Honeychurch (a very young Helena Bonham-Carter), vacationing in Italy, discovers romantic passion for the first time.  She doesn’t know it yet, but the odd free-thinking young man she’s only recently met (Julian Sands) is her soulmate.  He knows it, though.

Besides being (literally) storybook-romantic—a sun-drenched poppy field in Italy! lush soprano aria in the background!—the kiss is also wreathed in comedy, as the film cuts back and forth between Lucy, wending her way uncertainly towards George, and her fussy chaperone Charlotte (Maggie Smith) bonding with another fellow tourist, a hacky romance novelist (Judi Dench), over scandalous love stories before she starts to worry about Lucy.  Meanwhile, the Italian driver who led Lucy to George looks on in amusement at what he has wrought.  He knows what’s up, his own public display of affection having been previously smacked down by these uptight Brits.  But the Kiss will not be denied.

 

It’s also the kiss that keeps on giving for the rest of the movie.  Its memory haunts Lucy during her utter failure of a first kiss with her fiancé, Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis, vying for comic MVP with Maggie Smith), in England.  It reappears again at a critical and exquisitely awkward moment as a passage in a terrible romance novel, penned by none other than Charlotte’s novelist friend, that the clueless Cecil just happens to read out loud to none other than Lucy and George.  The tension that was simmering since George’s reentry into Lucy’s life then comes to full boil, precipitating a chain of events that eventually forces out in the open what Lucy’s been denying for too long: she and George belong together. 

All thanks to one glorious kiss.

Our Valentine's Series
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Before Sunset (2004)
The Painted Veil (2006)
Love Songs (2007)
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
Beyond the Lights (2014)

 

Friday
Dec112015

Interview: Valerio Mastandrea on Completing Italy's Oscar Submission After the Untimely Death of Its Director

Jose here. One could argue that most films go through an interesting trajectory, since it’s never easy to turn the initial pages on a script into moving images projected on a screen. However, few films in recent years have gone through the journey of Claudio Caligari’s Don’t Be Bad, which not only was the director’s third film in thirty years (take that Terrence Malick), but sadly turned out to be his last. Caligari, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, shot the film and had completed most of its editing, when he died at the age of 67 never seeing the final product. What followed was a true labor of love, as Caligari’s colleagues, led by actor Valerio Mastandrea who had starred in his second film, The Scent of the Night, completed the project and made sure it became available to audiences.

Don’t Be Bad made its debut at the 2015 Venice Film Festival and was subsequently selected as Italy’s submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. With a plot that seems inspired by Pasolini and Steinbeck, Don’t Be Bad, is a heartbreaking reminder that we won’t see any more films by Caligari, but it’s also a testament to his unique brand of sociopolitical filmmaking. I had the chance to attend a screening of the film in New York and listening to Mastandrea’s sincere admiration and love for Caligari and the film were awe-inspiring.

Read the interview after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep192015

TIFF: Anomalisa, Victoria, Youth. Is one pass enough?

Herewith three of the most distinctive films from TIFF. The only problem is: I'm not sure what I think of them. How often does that happen to you at the movies: walking out, unable to answer the question of "did I like it? was it good?" Some movies just refuse to settle quickly. Or, they're hard to parse in the film festival setting (due to seeing so many movies back to back). Which is to say that I'm going to need more time with each of these. All three are familiar and alien at once and, in their dissimilar ways, ambitious. All three are beautifully made... yet at this writing, I have trouble imagining the desire to watch any of them a second time. (Well, no. I'd like to see Youth again)

ANOMALISA (Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman, US)
Though I was a critical holdout on the oft revered miserabilist Synecdoche New York -- in which I learned that I most definitely prefer Kaufmann as a screenwriter than as a director -- I was eager to see this. That anticipation was partially for the novelty aspects. It's a stop motion film with many characters but with only three voice actors. The similar voices serve the plot in an obvious conceptual way when you're watching it (which I won't spoil) but they also indirectly expose the monotony and limits of a singular POV and male gaze, in this case Kaufmann's. The story involves a gray-haired customer service guru of some reknown, deeply unhappy and ready to cheat on his wife during a one night stay in a Cincinatti hotel. There are a few indisputably grand jokes, some stale ones (hotel room keys that don't work. hahaha) and moving beats within the discomfort and laughter. There's even a Jennifer Jason Leigh singing Cyndi Lauper sequence that's sublime. But there's also a feeling of "and...?" about the whole effort and even "why is this animated?" since it only becomes surreal a couple of times. At only 90 minutes this is stretched thin, given that some of the sequences play out in what painfully feels like real time like the businessman's cab to and check in at the hotel. I'm mystified by the "MASTERPIECE!" excitement around it but Kaufman's work is always worth mulling over. 

[Crass Oscar Note as I'm sure Kaufman had no interest in Oscars when he was making this: the critical hosannas Anomalisa was greeted with followed by the news that it would Oscar qualify this year led a lot of armchair pundits to think Inside Out suddenly has real competition for the Animated Oscar. That is not the case. This is too strange and dispiriting and even too dull to take the gold though the critical reception could certainly help it to a nomination if they'd like to acknowledge that animation isn't only for kids -- this one is entirely for adults given its themes and the animated sex scenes.] 

VICTORIA (Sebastian Schipper, Germany)
Victoria (Laia Costa) is a lonely barista from Spain who has spent three months in Berlin. She still doesn't know anyone when one night out dancing she meets drunk but charming Sonne (Frederick Lau) and three of his drunk up-to-no-good friends. Thus begins an unbroken 132 minute long continuous shot as we follow Victoria in real time through her inebriated misadventures. Schipper, who started as an actor (he's in many of Tom Tykwer's films), gets natural work from his entire cast who are all speaking rough English since that's their only common language. You truly feel like you're there with Victoria and her new friends on a neverending night you know you'll always remember. Or you'll hope to forget; parties can't last forever and one foolish decision can lead to another and another and soon you're in way too deep. Schipper and his technical team deserve all the praise they've received for this absolute technical triumph -- not only was the film all shot in one take, it's pulled off without a visible hitch, and it feels artful but effortless too since there are well timed musical breaks of one sort or another (including a phenomenal piano scene) and the lack of cuts only escalates the tension. The film has an inexorable energy since you don't feel you can escape. You're with Victoria and her German buddies until the end. But do you want to be? This is a grueling sit from the tension and eventual violence and the two hour plus running time so it's hard to imagine watching it a second time. Still, immersive film experiences like this are all too rare. 

Caine and Keitel spy on a tryst in the woods

YOUTH (Paolo Sorrentino, Italy)
An easier sit than Sorrentino's Oscar winning The Great Beauty but then it is half as long! Like that film, this one features amazing gilded tableaus and wealthy lost souls. We also get sharp performances from well loved Oscar-winners (Michael Caine, Jane Fonda, Rachel Weisz) and movie troupers (Harvey Keitel and Paul Dano), all of them getting at least one showcase moment. Youth has some truly vivid sequences / images but does it all cohere? I'm not sure that it does: It's covering a lot of ground very quickly and its many diversions, both fanciful, humorous, or sad are highly uneven. At a hotel/spa retreat for the rich and famous, the characters all come together: Caine is a retired legendary composer staving off requests to conduct again with his personal assistant daughter (Weisz); Dano (in a strange bit of casting) plays a sad movie star who hates his fans and the film he's best known for;  Keitel is a famous director whose work is not what it used to be. Jane Fonda appears in a much-showcased cameo as a legendary movie star diva. (That the movie is about aging showbiz types certainly won't hurt its Oscar chances given the Academy's demographics). Sorrentino seems to be borrowing from Fellini again and a friend of mine groaned about a scene involving a telescope in which Keitel pontificates on the different between youth and old age -- but I personally loved the scene. (Perhaps you have to be middle age or older to feel it though it's easy enough to "get") The movie may be chalk full of faux profundities like that one but better surface beauty and trying to say too much than drab looking movies with only one or two things to say.

 Grades: TBA

Sunday
Aug302015

La Strada

We close out our 1954 celebration with Amir on one of Federico Fellini's classic from the year...

Writing about canonical classics can be as difficult as it is rewarding. The larger amount of existing texts and the time that has been afforded to an artwork to cement its place in our cultural psyche allow for deeper familiarity and reflection in a way that is impossible with more recent films.  On the other hand, well, fresh angles are harder to find. What is there left to say about a film like Federico Fellini’s La Strada? Not much, but in truth, you can never talk too much about one of the best films ever made.

Growing up as an Iranian cinephile, and gradually getting into more serious films as a teenager, Italian cinema is the most natural foray outside of the local arthouse. Iranian cinema is not as indebted to any Western filmic culture as it is to the films of Italian masters; those films strike a particularly strong resonance. (Consider that the latest poll of the greatest films of all time voted on by Iranian film critics includes The Bicycle Thieves, La Strada and Cinema Paradiso all in the top ten.)

Fellini’s films are of a different breed than the neorealism of Zavattini, De Sica and Rossellini whose influence loomed heavily over the arthouse I was voraciously consuming at the time. To the dismay of some of his contemporaries, Fellini veered off quite drastically from his roots in neorealist cinema. [More...]

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