Micaela Ramazzotti (above) as her younger incarnation, and by Stefania Sandrelli (seated, center, below) in later years. Together, this succulent combination of Italian womanhood makes up one of those memorable characters that will stick with you forever.
Palisades Tartan. The film opens this Friday, April 15, in New York City at the Angelika Film Center. Be there, and scoop up a bowl of extended family, the likes of which you won't have experience in a movie theater in quite some time.
I am sorry that Signore Virzi -- whom I met briefly some years back, when his Caterina in the Big City made its Open Roads debut -- will not be here for his new film's opening. But thanks to his PR rep Susan Senk, I was able to ask him, via email, a few questions about his movie, Italy, family, current times -- and even the Mafia. Here is our conversation, below, with TrustMovies in bold and Paolo Virzi in standard type
I have only seen three of your films (My Name in Tannino, Caterina in the Big City, and now The First Beautiful Thing) but these are enough to make you one of my favorite directors -- I think for your ability at invention and for the humanity you allow to fall on all your characters.
Paolo Virzì: Thank you, this is very kind of you. I hope I will not disappoint you with my next films.
interviewed Silvio Orlando a couple of years back, the world was in the midst of the big financial crisis (actually, it pretty much still is, right?). Orlando told me that it did not seem to have hit Italy as badly as other countries, and when I asked him why, he told me he felt it was because of how highly Italians value family. That family must always come first. And if so, this would allow Italians to rally more strongly. This has stuck with me ever since then, and I wonder how you feel about Orlando’s statements.
Family in Italy is probably the strongest social shock-absorber and at the same time it is the offspring of many of our cultural weaknesses. Right now we have a very high unemployment rate among young people, but it's impossible here to imagine a social riot of the new generations like the ones we are witnessing in Maghreb. There are families: fathers, mothers, grandparents to protect sons and grandsons. Family seems to be at the same time our big strength and our sickness. A sort of our social pain reliever with the side effect of sedating and frustrating our new generations.
That's an interesting question. I come from a traditional lower-middle-class italian family, but I don't think my films convey an idyllic idea of the Family. For instance both in my last film and in "Caterina" there are troublemaking and immature fathers, and a kind of peace seems to be possible when they die or disappear.
Tons of thoughts, that would required a whole book. You are probably barking the right tree. Our main sickness as the young nation we are is what sociologists call amoral familism. But there are other serious questions: Who have determined the mafia phenomenon, which in fact exists also in Russia, in China, in South America....
No, no. I'm pretty satisfied of your interesting and unusual questions. Thank you very much.
Thank you – and keep ‘em coming -- your films, I mean!