Monday, May 30, 2011

OPEN ROADS 2011 -- this year's best from Italy, smaller scale but as terrific as always

Above and below, scenes from Giovanna Taviani's (yes, 
you do recognize that last name) stunningly beautiful
 documentary Return to the Aeolian Islands (Fughe e approdi).

If last year's OPEN ROADS -- the Film Society of Lincoln Center's series of new Italian films making their New York (often their U.S.) debut -- was full of vast-canvas/blockbuster movies such as Tornatore's Baarìa, Muccino's Kiss Me Again and even Giorgio Diritti's Donatello-winning The Man Who Will Come, this year's selections are noticeably smaller scale. (You can find TrustMovies' round-up of Open Roads 2010 here.) Yet they are just as impressive in their own quiet, sometimes raucous, way. They're also very mainstream. While there is not a lot of Art-with-a-capital-A here (Saverio Costanzo tries for it -- and almost makes it, with his gorgeous but finally undercooked but overwrought The Solitude of Prime Numbers, from which a still is shown below), there's plenty of the lower-case version: artful scenes, moments, performances, dialog -- some of which makes for great comedy. There's lots of humor is this year's selections, much of it falling-down funny.

Having at this point seen all but four of the sixteen films (15 new and one from the vaults) that comprise Opens Roads 2011, I can promise that this year's group is worth high commendation. On the subject of mainstream, if I am not mistaken, I noticed a half-dozen of the films on view leading off with American film company logos (which means that, In Italy, the film was distributed by this company): four or five were from Warner Bros., one from Universal -- more than I've ever previously noticed in one year's worth of Open Roads selections. I am not certain what this means for Italy, but what it made me quite immediately aware of is that we never get this many films this good -- intelligent, funny, and about something -- from Warners and Universal here on our home turf. Why not?  (Oh, shut up, TM, and just go see The Hangover Part 2.)

For this unique and rich combo of ideas, laughs, glamour and entertainment -- which Sergio Castellitto's Love & Slaps (La bellezza del somaro), above, gives us in spades -- we seek out foreign films, independents and festivals such as this. So do seek out Open Roads, for the payoff is big. As usual, I'll give you a run-down of all 16 movies, with a poster image and brief explanation of why you ought (or not, but mostly ought) to see the film in question. The four that I have not seen will have their descriptions posted as soon as I do.

These initial reviews will be very brief. As the films, we hope, find their way to theatrical release, I'll post longer notices. As of now, only one of the movies has been picked up for release: the opening night selection, writer/director/actor Gianni Di Gregorio's even better follow-up to his surprise 2010 hit Mid-August Lunch, which has been translated as The Salt of Life (Gianni e le donne) -- shown above and distributed here by Zeitgeist Films.  I'll have the complete listing up, I hope, by the end of the day (probably the bitter end). Meanwhile, to see the entire Open Roads program, click here and scroll down. To order tickets, click on the particular screening of the film you've chosen and follow directions...

No comments: