Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Giuseppe Capotondi's European Film Award nominee THE DOUBLE HOUR opens

What is this new Italian film by first-timer Guiseppe Capotondi? It's a mystery, all right, but I use that word almost in its religious sense. Its stars are two of the Italy's most versatile, in-the-moment actors at work today: Filippo Timi (Musolini in last year's Vincere) and Ksenia Rappoport (The Unknown Woman), and my lord, do they shine, bouncing off each other brilliantly in THE DOUBLE HOUR (La doppia ora), an unusual combina-tion love story/mystery/heist movie/ghost tale that keeps rearran-ging itself as it goes along yet never loses our interest or belief.

As good as is the direction by Signore Capotondi, shown at left, who manages to keep us on-track (even when we're sure we're off it), a word must be said for the terrific screeplay by Alessandro Fabbri, Lucovica Rampoldi and Stefando Sardo, that so effortlessly combines what seems like a billion sub-genres without skipping a beat. it is also, in its dark, quiet manner, a visual feast. Because the movie is a mystery in more ways than one, the less said about plot, the better. But I will mention that it offers one of the oddest yet strangely satisfying conclusions in memory. It was also one of the best of the many good films in last year's FSLC Open Roads series.

Since TrustMovies won't talk about plot, he'll fill up his space with praise for the two lead actors: Timi (above) and Rappoport (below). The former, who has been extraordinary is every single role in which I've seen him (I do not exaggerate), beginning with Open My Heart in 2002 through In Memory of Me, Signorina Effe, Saturn in Opposition and As God Commands. Most American will have seen Timi in The American or perhaps Vincere. Few actors have the ability to bring us so close to themselves, to allow us to see deeply inside them, and Timi is one such. If you're a fan of his work or want to know more about him, you'll learn a little, at least, from my interview with the man a couple of years back.

As for Russian-born actress (who works a lot in Italy!) Ksenia Rappoport, I've only seen her in three other films: The Rider Named Death, The Unknown Woman and The Man Who Loves. But she has registered strongly in each, while appearing different enough to be almost unrecognizable. As does Timi, she possesses the ability to throw herself body and soul into a role (no wonder she won a peck of awards for The Unknown Woman: If you have not seen this film, do). Here, she proves the most mysterious part of the mystery at hand, and her graceful, fleet performance goes far toward bringing the movie home.

As do few serious films that also act as "entertainment," The Double Hour makes better people of its viewers by thoroughly wrapping us into the process at work here, while enabling us to wrestle with subjects such as immigration, employment and the "other"; love, trust and honor. When it's over, the characters we've spent time with have genuinely grown and changed -- while we've arrived at something rich and new from the experience. The film (95 minutes, in Italian with English subtitles), from Samuel Goldwyn Films, opens in New York this Friday, April 15, at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and Sunshine Cinema -- with a welcome national roll-out to follow.

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