Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The FSLC's OPEN ROADS 2014 opens w/ Daniele Luchetti's fond, clear-eyed THOSE HAPPY YEARS

After viewing and reviewing nearly every film in the annual OPEN ROADS series of new Italian films showing at the Film Society of Lincoln Center over the past decade or more, 2014 marks the first time that I will not be able to properly cover this fine festival. The intrusions of life have meant that suddenly I had to bow out of seeing more than the first press screening of the opening night film, THOSE HAPPY YEARS (Anni felici) from the popular and accomplished writer /director Daniele Luchetti (shown below, of Ginger and Cinnamon and My Brother Is an Only Child).

Intelligence, humor, nostalgia, and family love and pain have whirled within all the Luchetti movies I've seen and his latest is no different: Only the setting -- the art world of 1970s Italy, in a time of noticeably changing mores throughout western civilization -- is different. The filmmaker's skill and compassion is upfront and on fine display, as usual.

I don't know that the story told here is a personal one, but it certainly could be, as the film is narrated by the older son of the

family, Dario (a wise, funny, sad, first-film performance by Samuel Garofalo, at right), a character whose age range during the course of the film would easily fit that of Signore Luchetti's back a few decades, and who is himself a budding filmmaker. In fact, Dario receives the gift of his first video camera during the film.

As good as is young Garofalo, the main characters here are his loving but confused parents, played by two of Italy's most beautiful stars. Dad (Open Roads regular Kim Rossi Stuart, above), a semi-successful "modern" artist with more ambition than apparent talent, is also a heavy-duty narcissist who cheats repeatedly on his wife but can't conceive of her being able to do the same thing to him.

Mom is that amazing and energetic actress Micaela Rammazotti (above, right), who made such an award-winning stir internationally a few years back in Paolo Virzi's family chronicle, The First Beautiful Thing. She learns and grows during the course of the film -- just as does Dad, and even the kids (especially Dario) -- coming to grips with an attraction to her hubby's agent (a very smart and interesting performance from Germany's Martina Gedeck, of The Wall, shown below, center right).

We learn something of Italy's art world back in the 70s and watch a funny, surprising display of performance art, while we also observe, yet again, that special something that seems to distinguish Italian cinema and how it deals with family. Luchetti's addition to the oeuvre is a keeper, so I hope this film will get a theatrical release in the USA. In any case, you can see it first at Open Roads, this Thursday, June 5, at 1pm and 6:30pm -- along with a whole bunch of other films that look, from their description and credits, extremely promising.

Check out the entire Open Roads program here, and see as many of these movies as time and money permit. After all, it's hard to go too far wrong where Italy and cinema are concerned.

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