Sunday, June 9, 2013

Open Roads 2013: In Maria Sole Tognazzi's I TRAVEL ALONE, a smart woman matures

Sure to be one of the more popular films in this year's Opens Roads, the new work by Maria Sole Tognazzi is -- in terms of both entertainment and audience apprecia-tion/understanding -- quite a bit more successful than her last work seen in this annual series back in 2009, The Man Who Loves. It's a lot lighter, too -- in theme and on its feet -- than the earlier and darker romantic drama. Best of all, perhaps, for audiences who love to travel but these days can't afford so much of it, I TRAVEL ALONE provides 85 minutes of nearly non-stop reveling at five-star hotels, from Gstaad to Marrakesh, Berlin and some eye-popping Italian locations of which TrustMovies had never seen nor heard.

The film's leading character, Irene, played by the wonderful Margherita Buy (shown below, also in this year's Discovery at Dawn) is one of those "mystery guests" that drive hotels, restaurants and retailers crazy by pretending to be a regular customer but then checking and rating everything from the cleanliness of the room (and staff) to, well, you'll find out quickly, as Ms Tognazzi, shown at right, opens her film with a terrific little segment on some of the things to look for in grading your typical five-star hotel.

As much as Irene loves her work -- and as good as she is at it (her boss keeps piling more hotels on her because, as he notes, the other girls fall in love or marry or get pregnant) -- her own personal life is not so much a mess as barely there.

Her sister and brother-in-law (lovely performances from Fabrizia Sacchi and GianMarcoTognazzi, shown respectively, left and right, above), and their kids (below, whom Irene babysits now and then and actually takes on one of her "rating" trips, at which the kids prove pretty good!) keep her occupied but, as sis points out, it's often as though Irene is not really there.

Her best friend of 20 years is a love-and-sex relationship that didn't work out, played by Stefano Accorsi (below, with whom Ms Buy starred some dozen years ago in Ignorant Fairies),

who is suddenly involved with a woman (Alessia Barela, below) who seems more than merely a one-night-stand, and so Irene squeezes herself into this relationship, as well -- all the while traveling and grading and doing it in first-class fashion.

Watch Irene's concern at one particular hotel switch to a younger couple -- clearly out of their element in this swank environment -- and later see and hear her confront the hotel manager, and you'll view an egalitarian woman at the top of her game, quietly and correctly nailing to the wall the hotel and its supposed service.

The above scene is extremely well written, as is much of the movie, especially the meeting of and the relationship that develops between Irene and a well-known anthropologist, played beautifully by Britain's Lesley Manville (above, right, and below, left).

That relationship and its result set off a change in our heroine. Fortunately, it is one that doesn't presage huge growth or life-shaking consequences. It simply trips a switch that leads to some re-thinking and a little interesting action.

Some might call I Travel Alone feminist. Ms Tognazzi certainly has the concerns of women on her mind, but she doesn't slight nor condescend to her male characters. I'd call the film humanist. I'd also call it a very good movie. It's like taking a wonderful vacation during which your mind and eye get a lot to savor.

One caveat:  Since Irene visits so many hotels, after which in each case she confronts the management and thus gives away her identity, wouldn't she -- and her credit card -- soon be tagged as a "mystery guest"? (She clearly needs, like Jason Bourne, a bunch of different identities, passports and credit cards in order to do her job properly.)

If you don't get the opportunity to see the film during Open Roads -- last evening's showing was sold out, but there is one more on Wednesday, June 12 at 9pm -- don't fret. Yet. I am told that the film may be picked up by one of several foreign-film distributors, and perhaps with a change-of-name to A Five-Star Life. I can understand going for a more mainstream, up-tempo title, but, really, I Travel Alone works quite well, as is. In any case, I'll have more to say, if and when the film opens up commercially. Meanwhile, check out the remaining Open Roads programs by clicking here.

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