Friday, June 11, 2010

OPEN ROADS winds down, final Italian films debut: THE FIRST BEAUTIFUL THING and ONE LIFE, MAYBE TWO

Italy's Best Actress, Micaela Ramazzotti, in The First Beautiful Thing

Another week of wonderful new Italian films has ended. How are we going to do without them for the next 11-1/2 months? This past Open Roads festival of new Italian films was, overall, the best I've seen in the ten years that the FSLC has been hosting the increas-
ingly popular series. A down economy? You'd never know it from the attendance at the Walter Reade theater during the last eight days.

Best Actor, Valerio Mastandrea, left, and Stefania Sandrelli, as mom, 
in Paolo Virzi's The First Beautiful Thing

This year's films seemed as bright and buoyant (though, with one exception, never flighty nor ridiculous) as last year's were dark. And the final two movies that I saw were among the best of them all: Paolo's Virzi's THE FIRST BEAUTIFUL THING (La prima cosa bella), shown in the two photos above, and Alessandro Aronadio's ONE LIFE, MAYBE TWO (Due vite per caso), shown in the photos below. 

Lorenzo Balducci, above and below, right, plays the lead role -- twice-- 
in Alessandro Aronadio's One Life, Maybe Two

The latter is one of those "What if things had happened differently?" movies and one of the best of its kind I've seen -- not content to simply give us two different scenarios but instead builds these around and into the question of how human character is formed. The former, from the filmmaker who gave us Caterina in the Big City is a superlative example of Italian family drama/comedy/history/romance -- in fact, the best film of this year's lot, eclipsing by a bit even the movie that won this year's Best Picture Dontatello.

Imagine having to choose among films as great -- and varied -- as Baarìa, The First Beautiful Thing, Loose Canons, The Man Who Will Come and Vincere -- all of which I'm lucky enough to have seen, and any one of which is better than the ten films our own Academy nominated this past year (except, I think, A Serious Man). Don't try to tell me that Italy is not once again at -- or very near -- the top of its film-making game.

You can find my final two reviews of the films above at the original Open Roads post here.  Click and scroll down to each (they're arranged alphabetically by English title).

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