Thursday, March 6, 2014

From Italy with love: Valeria Golino directs and Jasmine Trinca stars in a rich mix called HONEY; plus a Q&A with the director and her star

HONEY (Miele) is such a quiet and unusual film that approaching it without knowing the key to its subject matter should make it all the more special. But you can bet that most critics will give away that -- and much more -- by the time reviews are in and read by the public. Too bad, because that may turn off audiences who otherwise would embrace the film, due to its exceptional handling of a tricky theme. At it core is a character named Irene (played beautifully by the fine Italian actress Jasmine Trinca), who earns the lion's share of her income using the alias Honey. What she does for a living (no, it's nothing to do with the sex industry) is our entry into an unusual world.

The film is the first full-length feature to be directed by an actress -- Valeria Golino, one of Italy' best -- whom many of us have seen and loved over the decades. Her work as director and co-writer (with Francesa Marciano & Valia Santella, from the novel by Mauro Covaocich) is so good and un-showy that one wonders why it has taken her this long to make the leap. (See the Q&A that follows for the answer.) Well, she's done it now, and should she choose to continue directing, I'll wager she might have as produc-tive a career as she's had as an actress.

Golino has a good visual sense, along with the good sense not to push things, exposition-wise, as a writer. And while she has chosen a hot-button topic, she addresses it coolly, calmly. As a very good actress -- intelligent, subtle -- she would be expected to handle her cast well, particularly her lead actress. Ms Trinca (above and below) has already shone in film after film, from The Son's Room to The Best of Youth, Crime Novel, Piano Solo and House of Pleasures. Versatile and beautiful, in Honey she finally has a leading role to match her looks and talent.

Ms Trinca proves the sun around whom several males revolve (but at a distance): her father, her lover, her business partner and a new client named Carlo. In that last role, an actor named Carlo Cecchi (below, right) -- whom I have seen many times previous without his registering all that strongly -- here gives a performance that will stick with me for good. The relationship that grows between Honey and Carlo seems completely honest and real, allowing for genuine sentiment without a trace of sentimentality.

This can be said, in fact, about every aspect of Golino's movie, which allows us a deep enough look into Irene/Honey's character to offer up a full characterization. As a bonus, we're also taken around Italy and off to Mexico and Turkey for business reasons (and some unusual scenery).

From Emerging Pictures, Honey -- running 96 minutes, in Italian with English subtitles -- is part of the Italian film package that began with The Great Beauty (which just the other evening copped Best Foreign Language Film) and will continue over the months to come with three other new movies. In New York City, Honey will play at the FSLC's Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, and in the Los Angees area, look for it at Laemmle's Music Hall 3 and Playhouse 7. To find other venues closer to you, simply click here, enter your zip code, click again, and see what arrives.


Note to self: Don't imagine that if you are digitally recording an interview -- whilst the hotel in which your interviewees are located is doing heavy duty construction work -- that you will record anything that can be transcribed properly. (The sound of the jackhammer trumps all.) Fortunately, Valeria Golino (below, right) and Jasmine Trinca (below, left) were so lovely of both countenance and personality that they made the few minutes completely fly by and then lock rather well into my memory.

Ms Golino has a haircut that make her look different from anything I've seen in her films of late (it's short and wavy/curly and takes a good decade off her age. She looks simply terrific. Ms Trinca, whom I'm guessing is maybe twenty years Golino's junior, looks smashing, as well. This actress has such a luminous face, and truly lovely features, one of the most special of which is her teeth, two of which are slightly crooked and so add that bit of "real" to her beauty. When I mention this, she blushes and covers her mouth, so I go on to explain how beautiful I find this -- both the look and the fact that she hasn't done what every Hollywood babe would immediately do: have them "fixed" so that they look interchangeable with the other hundred "beauties" currently taking up space in our would-be-star-prone stratosphere.

We first talk about the Oscars, and what we thought of them, and how bitchy some people can be.
"Ah, nothing is like it used to be!" declares Golino.
"You sound like an old person," I tell her. "That's what my parents always used to say, and now I am saying the same thing. But you're too young to say that."
"No," she says. "And it's true."
What do you think? I ask Trinca.
"I agree," she says. "Everything is worse now."
"But you're even younger! I tell her.
"Yes, but she's an old soul," Golino laughs.

We talk about a couple of Golino's somewhat recent roles -- in Ca$h (above) and the wonderful Kryptonite! (shown below: click and scroll down for my earlier review) that Ivan Cotroneo wrote and directed. "Did he have you in mind for the role from the beginning?" I ask.
"Yes, from the beginning he wanted me for that role," Golino admits, "and I loved to play it. When someone writes a role this good, this different, it is such a pleasure to do it."

I ask Golino why it has taken her so long to finally direct a movie?
"Because I was too busy acting," she says immediately. "There just was no time -- until now."

Did she have Jasmine in mind for the film from the start. "Yes," she says. "Jasmine came first, but I did not want her to win right away. So I thought, 'What am I losing if I don't take her?' and I saw others and others and others. But I always came back to her."

"You have women co-writers on the film, and you are a woman but yet your movie does not come off a a "woman's picture."  You are equally good with all the men in the film, particularly Carol Cecchi."
"I am glad to hear that," she says. "That is a compliment. It's funny, because, yes, I loved Jasmine, and her character in the movie, but I am in love with him -- with his character."

"You deal with strong themes here but you don't throw things in our face. I never felt 'pushed' by the film that I had to feel one way or another. And I like that."
"Maybe because the movie is not against God," Golino suggests. "It doesn't go against God."
"No. Perhaps against The Catholic Church, and some other organized religions..." I offer.
"Yes -- but that is not God."
We sure agree on this!  "Everyone's god is different, anyway. And my feeling is that we couldn't possibly understand god. We're just way too small potatoes for that."

We talk about Bellochio's Dormant Beauty and Haneke's Amour, in comparison with Golino's film.

And then we turn to Jasmine:
"Now-- you:  You haven't made all that many films over the past decade, I see from the IMDB. Are you just more picky?
Golino laughs. "Yes, she is."
Jasmine sort of agrees. "I don't know if you remember when we first met," she reminds me. (This was at a luncheon for the FSLC's Open Roads a few years back, and we sat next to each other at one of the tables) "I had just started out then and only made a few films, and wasn't sure what I wanted." Since then she has gone back to school,  taken some courses and done a number of other things in tandem with making a movie now and again (you can see her complete list of films here).
"Then I had a daughter..."
"You have a daughter!""
"Yes, I do. You see: Everything keeps changing."

We learn that Golino has had a relationship for a number of years -- eight, actually -- with  Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio, (above) and so we talk a bit about his career. Turns out that he produced this film for Golino, and so he has not done that much acting during the time the film was being made. "Now," notes Valeria, "he has gone back to acting in movies."

Our time is finished all too soon (and that jack hammer keeps interrupting every question), and so we bid ciao to these two lovely ladies, wish them well for the success of their film here in the USA, and then head out to babysit the grandkids.....

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