Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A must-see for Toni Servillo/Italian cinema fans: Roberto Andò's VIVA LA LIBERTA

Apologies for posting this review so very tardily, as the movie in question opened this past Friday and is one of the year's best so far: VIVA LA LIBERTA, a funny, moving, sad and thoughtful look at politics today -- in Italy, of course, but really just about everywhere in the western world -- about which compromise and money, narcissism and vanity, promises and personality trump all else. The writer/director, Roberto Andò, takes a age-old tale, that of the unknown twin, and via a supremely elegant visual style, whip-smart scenario and breathtaking lead performance(s), turns it into a modern-day fable non-pareil.

Signore Andò, shown above, is known to me via ony one other film, Secret Journey (Viaggio Segreto), which I saw some years back at the FSLC's Open Roads. (My earlier review of that film for Greencine is here.) It has remained in my memory as a keeper, and now this new film of his joins it to make an even more memorable duo. While Secret Journey was gorgeous, florid, melodramatic and riveting, Viva la libertà is elegant, restrained, subtle and smooth as silk. While I love both films, if identity had been kept from me, I doubt I would ever have guessed the same man made these two movies.

This new film has an additional weapon that tends to crush all in its path. That would be the consummate actor Toni Servillo (above and below, center), who, playing the identical twins, gives us a double dose of great acting. He endows both men with such terrific and pointed details -- these both differentiate the two and entertain us immeasurably, that once the plot get into motion, we're hooked for the entire fast-paced running time.

Andò has also conspired to make this movie about politics and movie-making, and he has done it in a plausible, easy-going way that makes perfect sense plot-wise, as one of our two heroes does a disappearing act in order to visit an important ex-girlfriend (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, below) who is now married to a film director and is in the middle of working on a film shoot in France, on which our politician finds himself also working. This makes for some charming but pointed references to reality, creativity, imagination, politics, the workplace and more.

At its heart, the movie is dissecting Italian politics, the people's need for a hero and guide, and how truth, spoken plainly, can produce the right kind of shock and awe. So much happens in the course of the film, and yet so little changes, too. That, unfortunately, is another of the film's points.

Especially fine in the film's supporting cast is Valerio Mastandrea, above, as our politician's right-hand man, who starts the ball rolling by using the other twin, and then cannot stop  -- and maybe wouldn't want to -- the ensuing progress.

Made last year, Viva la libertà was eclipsed by The Great Beauty, also starring Servillo, which Italy submitted for, and which then won, Best Foreign Language Film. The Great Beauty was very good, but Viva la libertà is even better. Stick it on your must-see list now.

The movie, from Distrib Films and running a sleek 94 minutes, opened in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and Quad Cinema last Friday, November 7. It will hit Los Angeles (at Laemmle's Royal, Playhouse 7 and Town Center 5). In between those dates and after, the film will open throughout the USA. You can see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters by clicking here, then scrolling down just a bit to click again on THEATERS, then scrolling down some more.

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