Friday, July 24, 2009

Get your fill of Servillo, as the FSLC serves up four of his films in one three-day fest

Anyone particularly taken with a per-
formance by the multi-award-wining Italian actor Toni Servillo may want to see as much of the work of this unusual performer as possible. To this end the Film Society of Lincoln Center, together with the Lincoln Center Festival, is presenting a heavy dose of Signore Servillo over the next few days.

To begin with, the actor is starring in Carlo Goldoni’s Trilogia della villeggiatura (which Servillo also adapted and directed, and from which the photos of the actor, above and below, appear) at the Lincoln Center Festival's Rose Theater, Broadway @ 60th Street in the Time Warner Center. Remaining performances are Saturday (7/25) at 8pm and Sunday (7/26) at 3pm. I believe last night's performance was sold out but tickets remain for Saturday and Sunday. For more information click here.

TrustMovies' real interest, of course, is in Servillo's motion picture work, and the FSLC's three-day, four-film festival provides ample opportunity to revel in what this actor provides, particularly in the two on view by upcoming director Paolo Sorrentino (The Consequences of Love and Il Divo). In these artistic triumphs, in which Servillo has the leading roles (and almost constant screen-time in which to demonstrate his quiet charisma), his performances, with the help of Sorrentino's visual sense and generally expert direction, become can't-take-your-eyes-off-him experiences.

The third film in the fest, Gomorrah, is certainly the most famous on these shores, though Servillo (shown center in the photo above) is only one of a number of major players in its ensemble. Interesting-
ly, though all four films have been won multiple awards at home & abroad, it's the fourth -- and definitely the least -- of them, The Girl by the Lake, that took home the most prizes at the yearly David di Donataello awards (Italy's version of our"Oscars"): ten wins out of fifteen nominations to Il Divo's seven out of sixteen, Gomorrah's seven out of eleven, and Consequence/Love's five out of ten.

Below are brief descriptions, together with a bit of critical comment on each of the four films. Because my first experience seeing Mr. Servillo was in The Girl By the Lake, I must admit to not initially understanding what all the fuss was about. Having now seen all four of these films, I certainly do. This short and easily accessible festival provides a terrific opportunity to catch up with a world-class actor at what might be the peak of his powers.

The Consequences of Love (Le conseguenze dell’amore)
Paolo Sorrentino, Italy, 2004; 100m
Tuesday, July 28, at 4 and Wednesday, July 29, at 6:10
As a mafia accountant who has been condemned to isolation for a past "mistake" and now launders the mob’s money, Servillo creates a rich character of few words but an unforgettable"look." Early on, as he gazes from his hotel window, we see a funny and charming example of the film's title. By the end, however, we've come face-to-face with our worst fears, and it's here that Mr. Servillo manages to shock and move us in equal parts. What, exactly, is this "love" of the title? Perhaps just simple connection. You'll have your own explanation, but I doubt you will forget this film that also stars Anna Magnani's granddaughter, Olivia, and a number of other fascinating actors.

Il Divo
Paolo Sorrentino, Italy, 2008; 110m
Screening Monday July 27, at 6pm -- with Signore Servillo
appearing in person (limited ticket availability)
and Tuesday, July 28, at 9pm
Here Paolo Sorrentino probes postwar Italian politics, and if he doesn't -- for American audiences, at least -- bring the subject to heel, he does manage to entertain and pop our eyes via some utterly brilliant visuals, and a performance by Mr. Servillo in the title role as Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti that is simply one for the record books. Servillo captures the man visually, emotionally, and every which way -- and still leaves him a mystery. I've seen the film twice (my earlier review appears here), and I could probably see it ten more times -- it's that rich. Nominated for 16 David di Donatello awards, the movie walked away with seven, including Best Actor for Servillo -- who has now taken this award three times, two of them in succession.

The Girl by the Lake (La ragazza del lago)
Andrea Molaioli, Italy, 2007; 95m
Screening Monday, July 27, at 9 pm and
Wednesday, Jul 29, at 4:15 pm
Servillo earned a Pasinetti Award in 2007 at Venice,
as well as a David di Donatello for Best Actor.
A gorgeous corpse appears one morning on the lake shore of a lovely mountain town. Servillo plays a high-level investigator called in because, perhaps, the local boys aren't up to the job. A movie of many suspects, a lot of plot and simply tons of coincidence and manufactured moments, it is seldom uninteresting, the scenery is gorgeous, and a starry cast (Valeria Golino and Fabrizio Gifuni among them) helps pass the time. My review for GreenCine, during last year's FSLC Open Roads festival, appears here.

Gomorrah (Gomorra)
Matteo Garrone, Italy, 2008; 137m
Screening Tuesday, July 28, at 6:15
and Wednesday Jul 29, at 8:20

Exactly how wide and deep does the reach of the Camorra -- the Naples-and-environs-based Italian organized crime empire -- extend? The answers come thick and fast is this award-winning dose of cinema-journalism, adapted by Matteo Garrone from journalist Roberto Saviano's best-seller. And yet these answers simply open up into new questions, so crooked, venal and often sociopathic are just about everyone we encounter in this movie. Servillo plays a middle man who organizes the illegal dumping of toxic waste, and even though he is probably doing the most harm to his country and its people of anyone we see in the movie, his section of the film is physically much less violent brutal than the others. In this ensemble piece, his role is no larger than that of another half-dozen characters, but he brings his usual quiet strength to the proceedings. My original review and thoughts on the film -- and how it reflects on the social contract in Italy today-- appear here. Gomorrah has proven the most successful Italian film to come to America in some years, with Il Divo close behind. See them both (and the other two, as well) during this short fest and come away with a renewed respect for what one actor can bring to film. For ticket information on the entire series, click here.

Thanks to Griselda Guerrasio of Cinecitta/Filmitalia
for helping to make this series possible.
All stills are courtesy of the respective films.

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