Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Soldini's COME UNDONE lets Rohrwacher and Favino raise our temperatures a bit

Because his first experience with truly sensual film came via Italy (La Dolce Vita, Rocco and His Brothers, L'Avventura), TrustMovies finds it odd that when Italian filmmakers these days place sexuality front and center, the results prove somehow less than fulfilling. Last year's The Man Who Loves (shown at the FSLC's Open Roads) was one example, and now we have COME UNDONE (Cosa voglio di più), the new movie from one of Italy's more popular (and currently exportable) filmmakers, Silvio Soldini (shown below), who earlier gave us Bread and Tulips, Agata and the Storm and Days and Clouds.

What is the reason for this?  Does sexuality/sensuality, when shown as a part -- even a very large part -- of an entire life work better than when it becomes nearly the only subject at hand? Perhaps. (TM wasn't all that fond of the initially-hot but finally-tiresome 9-1/2 Weeks, either. In any case, Signore Soldini has made a much better film than did Adrian Lyne.)

First of all, this Italian director captures quite well the easy-going, childless marriage of Anna and Alessio -- Alba Rohrwacher (above, right) and Giussepe Battiston, above left -- and the not-going-so-well marriage of Domenico and Miriam (Pierfrancesco Favino and Teresa Saponangelo). Money problem plague the latter, though it is the former's Anna who take the first step in initiating the affair with Domenico. As co-writer and director, Soldini's details are often on the mark -- particularly those of the tell-tale swimming attire that figures into things, and how aware one's co-workers can be when something's amiss.

Once the affair heats up, however, it can only go forward or end, and so midway the movie begins to vamp a bit to kill time. (Running two hours, as it does, there's a little too much time to effectively kill.) Back and forth we go: She's out, and then back in; he's out and then back in. For younger viewers who have not endured this sort of thing countless times already, there may indeed be some surprise and a bigger payoff. Others of us will have to content ourselves with the very good performances of actors who are always a pleasure to view.

Rohrwacher and Favino are two of Italy's most talented, award-laden and sought-after performers. Favino is also one of the country's hottest leading men, though this film, I believe, marks Rohrwacher's first foray into heavy-duty nudity and sex. She acquits herself splendidly, and may be the only actress I can think of who, within a couple of years' time, could have managed to play -- with utter truthfulness -- a psychologically handicapped high school girl (Giovanna's Father), a barely-educated, mountain-village heroine of WWII (The Man Who Will Come) and a role like this one. She's a treasure, and -- physically and talent-wise -- comparisons to Meryl Streep would not be out of order, though I do not know if Ms Rohrwacher does accents.

For his part Favino (above, right), whom you may have seen earlier in El Alamein, Saturn in Opposition and The Unknown Woman (plus a few American films such as Miracle at St. Anna, Night at the Museum, and The Chronicles of Narnai: Prince Caspian), is equally fine. He captures the neediness of this guy, as well as the sheer physical joy of losing oneself (while forgetting those problems on the home front) in the arms (and other areas) of someone new. One quibble: given the full-frontal we see of Rohrwacher, more of Favino's body on display would have seemed reasonable and equitable -- not to mention pleasurable for some of us.

Mr. Battiston is wonderful as Anna's jovial, fat and very patient husband, and though Ms. Saponangelo (above, left) gets saddled with the grousing wife, she does it justifiably and well. All in all, Come Undone is a perfectly adequate example -- with subtitles -- of the oooh, hot infidelity! genre. The movie opens this Friday, December 3, in New York at the Quad Cinema, Manhattan, and the IndieScreen, Brooklyn.

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