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Entries in Italy (26)

Friday
Nov142014

AFI Fest Honors Sophia Loren, Actress, Fashion Icon, Mistress of Throwing Shade

 Anne Marie from the AFI Fest on an International Legend...

At age 80, Sophia Loren is still magnetic. When the Academy Award-winning actress appeared onstage at the Dolby Theatre on Wednesday night for an AFI Fest tribute to her career, she received a two-minute long standing ovation. The audience whooped and yelled "Bellisima" before Loren, elegant in a black gown studded with crystals, could do more than walk onstage and smile. Once the furor died down, Rob Marshall, her director for Nine, interviewed Sophia Loren about her career, co-stars, and controversies.

“When I saw the movies, I forgot the war, forgot hunger. It was possible to believe there was another life than the one I was in.”

Despite her glamorous image, Loren's description of her early life growing up poor in the slums of Italy was bleak. When she met her husband, producer Carlo Ponti (who passed away in 2007), he took an active role in shaping her career. Ponti was the one who brought her to America after a successful Italian film career and encouraged her to learn English (“you have to learn English, because movies are in English"). Of course, we all know how that turned out. She had a hugely successful international film career, starring in films by some of the best American and Italian directors (not Fellini, of whom she said “I was not his kind of actress"), and an Oscar in 1961 for Two Women, a movie to which she felt deeply connected, since it reflected her own impoverished childhood.

Besides an illustrious film career, Sophia Loren also has a wicked sense of humor. She was happy to dish on her various famous co-leading men. Here are some scattered observations:

On Cary Grant: "...a great actor, absolutely incredible as a person, as a man.”

Peter Sellars: “very melancholic person. He would light up only when the director said action.”

Clark Gable: "He had a watch and it rang every evening at 5. When it rang, he would leave without saying goodbye."

Daniel Day Lewis: "One of the best alive."

Marlon Brando: <shrug> "Eh."

But of course, nothing could top her most famous moment of shade, the immortal side-eye she gave Jayne Mansfield at a Hollywood party. Rob Marshall showed Loren the picture, and asked her exactly what was going through her mind. Here, for a brief moment, Loren was at a loss for words.

"I was afraid that everything would... come out!"

The tribute concluded with two films starring the legendary actress: her son Edoardo Ponti's short film, The Human Voice, and Marriage Italian Style, the 1964 film for which Loren earned her second Academy Award nomination. As Sophia Loren rose to leave the stage before the movies began, she received another standing ovation. She paused briefly, clearly touched, and then swept away.

Monday
Oct272014

Rome & London Film Fest Winners

Manuel here to bring you some more film festival news. Toronto, Venice, Telluride and New York are behind us but that doesn’t mean we’re done with film festivals; across the pond, London and Rome have recently wrapped up which means: awards!

BFI London Film Festival (8-19 October)

Official Competition winner – Best Film: Leviathan – Andrey Zvyagintsev (reviewed at Cannes and winner of Best Screenplay at that fest)
First Feature Competition winner – The Sutherland Award:Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy for The Tribe (Critics Week Winner at Cannes)
Documentary Competition winner – The Grierson Award: Silvered Water, Syria Self-portrait – Ossama Mohammed & Wiam Simav Bedirxan (reviewed by Glenn at NYFF)
Best British Newcomer:  Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – actor Catch Me Daddy
BFI Fellowship: Stephen Frears (we were just discussing his new film!)

Rome Film Festival (15-25 October)

BNL People’s Choice Award | Gala - Trash by Stephen Daldry
People’s Choice Award | Cinema d'Oggi - Shier gongmin / 12 Citizens by Xu Ang
People’s Choice Award | Mondo Genere - Haider by Vishal Bhardwaj
BNL People’s Choice Award  | Cinema Italia (Fiction) -F ino a qui tutto bene by Roan Johnson
People’s Choice Award  | Cinema Italia (Documentary) - Looking for Kadija by Francesco G. Raganato

TAODUE Camera D’oro Prize for Best Debut Film
- Andrea Di Stefano director of Escobar: Paradise Lost (Gala)
- Laura Hastings-Smith producer of X+Y by Morgan Matthews (Alice nella città)
- Special Mention: Last Summer by Leonardo Guerra Seràgnoli (Prospettive Italia)

DOC/IT Award to the Best Italian Documentary
- Largo Baracche by Gaetano Di Vaio (Prospettive Italia)
- Special Mention: Roma Termini by Bartolomeo Pampaloni (Prospettive Italia)

The big takeaway from Rome is that audiences flocked to Daldry's latest -- that is, in fact, what the prize represents as it was tabulated by tickets purchased rather than votes tallied. If you had no idea Daldry had a new film out, you're probably not alone as it bypassed the North American festival route, premiering as the closing film of the Rio Film Festival earlier this month, and is headed for a UK debut January 2015, with no US release plan in place. Find the trailer below:

Are you curious about Daldry's Slumdog-looking film? Are you ready to place a bet on Leviathan to take a Foreign Language Film nomination? Any of these other films we should all be looking out for?

Thursday
Oct162014

CIFF Foreign Film Oscar Report, Vol. 1: Afghanistan, Italy & Switzerland

Tim here. A week ago today, two things happened: the Academy announced the complete list of submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film race, and the 50th Chicago International Film Festival opened. That's put me in a position to see a lot of those submissions firsthand, and this week and next I'll be sharing my quick thoughts on several of the ones that the Film Experience hasn't otherwise looked at.

AFGHANISTAN: A FEW CUBIC METERS OF LOVE
In a grubby part of Tehran, a population of Afghan refugees ekes out a small living and strives to retain their culture and sense of worth while dodging the police. Against this background, a young Afghan woman (Hasiba Ebrahimi) and an Iranian boy (Saed Soheili) fall in love, only to find their relationship threatened when her father decides to flee Iran. So it's yet another Romeo & Juliet riff, although in this case the unexpected context gives it some freshness, and the film does good work balancing its depiction of the hard life of the refugees in an unfriendly place with the romantic plot. Ebrahimi and Soheili also have excellent, unforced chemistry with each other, making for an especially appealing representation of a stock scenario. It's a little minor and not too daring, but it's awfully moving.

Oscar prospects: Stranger things have happened, though central Asia hasn't done all that well here over the years, and the realist style is a little on the chilly side. I suspect it would have to be one of the films swept in by executive decision, and there are bigger-name titles that are much likelier to receive that boost.

Israeli divorce, Italian essay, and Swiss gays after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep282014

NYFF: At Odds Over 'Two Shots Fired' and 'La Sapienza'

The New York Film Festival has started, and here is Glenn on a pair of films from Argentina and Italy, 'Two Shots Fired' and 'La Sapienza'.

As film lovers, and especially as film critics, we like to think we view films from a purely neutral place without bias or prejudice. That feeling of going into any film with a blank slate of emotions, taking films on a case by case basis where there’s the possibility of liking literally anything that gets thrown our way. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s as far from the truth as you could get. Whether it’s an actor or a director, a genre or even a region, sometimes there are things we just do not like or respond to as viewers. I freely admit to there being many personalities whose presence in front or behind a camera I find a struggle and while the the quality of the material they have to work with can fluctuate, sometimes you just have to admit that somebody or something is not for you.

Such was the case after seeing Two Shots Fired and La Sapienza two film with seemingly in common. The Argentinian and Italians films do share, however, a style. This certain storytelling aesthetic that aims for faintly quirky, film’s that trade in an excessively dry, often tangential, random humor that is delivered in monotone voices by a cast that sound more like they’re doing a table-read for a badly scripted soap opera. The actors’ robotic body movements suggest a disconnect between character and emotion, but which ultimately does more to distance the viewer from the film than anything else. When a character gets to express actual emotions in the same way a real human would it’s positively elating.

In Martín Rejtman’s Two Shots Fired, I liked a late-in-the-runtime turn of events that sees the return of a character who disappeared after the opening sequence. Sadly it goes nowhere as characters shrug it off and carry on with their lives as if the entire enterprise was for nothing. Eugéne Green’s La Sapienza has more virtues, which make its weaknesses even more disappointing. Its photography is suitably lush and the many, many shots of beautiful Italian architecture are gorgeous to behold, but the story that runs around them is like slowly watching life be drained out of a painting. Such rich possibilities are never taken advantage of.

 Both films’ arch sensibilities kept me at arm’s length from engaging with them in any way. They sit in between stylistic minimalism or flamboyant visual expressiveness, utilizing none of the virtues of either. I had similar issues with Greek “weird wave” titles like Dogtooth and Attenberg, but found much more of interest in their stories and visual storytelling to still be more or less on side despite other quibbles. I found the Argentinian and Italian films incredibly hard to latch on to; this emotional coolness (or detachment, whatever you like to consider it) leaving no hook for me to hang on to. Given how few notes are in their registers, if you don’t ‘get’ them from the start you’ll be at a loss for the duration.

Two Shots Fired screens on Monday Sep 29 (8.45pm) and Tuesday Sep 30 (3pm).
La Sapienza screens on Saturday Sep 27 (3pm) and Sunday Sep 28 (12.15pm).

Tuesday
Sep232014

NYFF: Growing Up, Italian Style in 'The Wonders' and 'Misunderstood'

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...] 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jun272014

Review: Me and You

Bertolucci at Cannes, two years agoThere was a time when the release of every new film from Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci would cause some level of controversy. Consider that in a career that spans more than five decades, he has directed films like The Conformist. Last Tango in Paris and The Dreamers. His latest film, Me and You, was made almost a decade after The Dreamers. It premiered at Cannes more than two years ago but is being released only now, almost as if the publicity for his films has gotten as quiet as the man himself, now sitting (and directing) permanently in wheel chairs. 

The opening of Me and You promises more of the director’s provocative thematic interests. Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) is a troubled looking teenager finishing a conversation with his psychiatrist. He is reclusive and detached, and his misbehaviours are confirmed when we overhear a conversation between his separated parents on the phone. An early scene in which Lorenzo and his mother dine at a restaurant shows the most prominent touch of Bertolucci’s perversions as the young boy incessantly asks his mother what she would do to repopulate the world if they were the only two people left on the planet. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun122014

Some Came Linking

Vulture dreams up sequels for The Fault In Our Stars. We'll obviously take the Laura Dern one
The Awl "The Tortured History of Entertainment Weekly" - god I was so in love with that magazine when it debuted in the 1990s. The first issue I remember buying was #5 with Jamie Lee Curtis on the cover for Kathryn Bigelow's Blue Steel
Pixar Times Pixar teases the first five minutes of Inside Out their June 2015 release
Theater Mania Laura Benanti auditions for Peter Pan Live

Boy Culture RIP supporting actress Martha Hyer, Oscar-nominated for Some Came Running (1958) 
Kenneth in the (212) teases a new stage production with the music of the The Go-Gos?
Comics Alliance a giant statue of Spider-Man in Korea is causing a stir thanks to its Spider-Manhood
Empire there's a new trailer for The Boxtrolls
Variety expects crazy ladies to dominate the Guest Actress race at the Emmys 
THR has a lengthy cover story on the suicide of the director of Searching For Sugar Man 

Foreign Film Oscar Watch
The Great Beauty, Italy's Oscar winner just lost its home-field Oscar race to a film called Human Capital which also won three acting gongs. Human Capital wasn't eligible for submission by Italy last year (since it hadn't yet opened by the cutoff date) so it could well be Italy's submission this year.

P.S.
I'm not sure how I missed this excellent interview with Lori Petty over at The Daily Beast on Sunday but it's a must read if you have any affection at all for Lori or the 1990s when she just kept doing her inimitable thing all over now classic movies like A League of Their Own, Point Break, and... well, the interview weirdly neglects Tank Girl but what can you do? She talks working with Jodie Foster, Madonna, discovering Jennifer Lawrence and how she got her cameo part in Orange is the New Black despite definitely being off the radar in recent years. 

Lori Petty & Naomi Watts in Tank Girl (1995)

Why do you think the roles started drying up after Tank Girl?

Well, because I was thirty-something and I hadn’t married my agent, married any guy co-stars, or gotten fake titties or Botox. I never wanted to be a bombshell; I wanted to be an actor. I would much prefer to be a woman than a man, but if I was a dude, maybe I’d have Johnny Depp’s island because women in this industry after a certain age definitely don’t get to do Pirates of the Caribbean. Poor Keira [Knightley], they even airbrushed huge tits on her on the poster, and she’s flawless! I was trying to play football with a baseball, and you can’t really do that.