Sunday, May 27, 2018

At the FSLC, OPEN ROADS returns with a bevy of new Italian films. First up: Ferzan Ozpetek and the Taviani brothers

Mark your calendars for May 31 through June 6, as the popular series, OPEN ROADS: NEW ITALIAN CINEMA, now in its 18th year, returns to the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Co-presented by the FSLC and Istituto Luce Cinecittà, this year's series offers 15 new Italian films --narrative or documentary, plus a pair of " classics" that perfectly complement two of the new films to be seen: Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's Night of the Shooting Stars (above) will be shown in conjunction with the appearance of the brothers final film (Vittorio died this past April), Rainbow: A Private Affair, while Marco Ferreri's famous The Ape Woman will screen alongside a new documentary (below) about this iconoclast filmmaker, Marco Ferreri: Dangerous but Necessary.

In past years TrustMovies has often viewed all (or almost all) of the Open Roads films, but this year, due to age, infirmities and screening links that don't always work, he has only managed to see a half dozen of the selections. Still, these were enough to make the series, as always, a "must." Below are his thoughts on the first two films. More will come over the days to follow. You can view the entire Opens Roads schedule by clicking here and then clicking on the individual films for more information and/or on the particular screening time in order to procure tickets.

Ferzan Ozpetek is one of my favorite filmmakers, with a resume full of fine films, most of which deal with subjects and themes close to my own mind and heart -- from the intersection of art and life to sexuality, passion and love (often GLBT-related) -- so the opportunity to see anything new from this fellow is not to be missed. His latest, NAPLES IN VEILS (Napoli velata), seems to me a kind of culmination of all that's important to Signore Ozpetek, brought to life with the kind of beauty, passion and art that seems near-extraordinary, even for the likes of him. (The filmmaker is shown below, center, with the two gorgeous stars of his new film: Giovanna Mezzogiorno (right) and Alessandro Borghi (left).

Ozpetek's movies are usually eye-poppingly beautiful to view, and Naples in Veils is no exception -- except that it is exceptionally so. The director and his cinematographer (Gian Filippo Corticelli) give us the architecture (exterior, interior), the sea, the penthouses, basements, highways and byways of Naples as we've never seen them. The movie is such a visual treat, in fact, that if it were merely a travelog, I'd probably have been thrilled.

Yet the tale it tells is even more unusual. As written by Ozpetek, along with Gianni Romoli and Valia Santella, Naples in Veils begins with the murder of a husband by his wife, with their young daughter a witness to the result. We move to that daughter, now grown into Ms Mezzogiorno, attending a very bizarre "Nativity Scene as performance art" (above). At this event, staged, I believe, in the very apartment in which that murder took place, our heroine meets a young man (Signore Borghi) and is soon trysting in the hottest sex scene Ozpetek has yet filmed. Our couple spends a passionate (and quite versatile) night together night and arranges to meet the following day at the museum.

From there, the movie turns into a major mystery -- not simply of what, why and how something awful has happened but even more about the mysteries of character, identity, and the why and how of who we come to love. It seems to me that all of Ozpetek's major concerns are mirrored here: passionate love vs the stable, caring variety; the place and meaning of art to our lives; and even the very act of storytelling itself (the filmmaker borrows a page out of Paul Haggis' wondrous Third Person). And all of this is given to us wrapped in the most spectacularly beautiful packaging.

I'd try to stop myself from overpraising this film, but I don't think that is even possible. Yes, Naples in Veils is all over the place, yet every place it ventures is worth the trip. The movie -- in Italian with English subtitles and running 113 minutes -- screens at Open Roads  this Saturday June 2 at 8:30pm, and next Thursday, June 7, at 2:30 pm. Click here for more information and tickets.

It always sad to reach the end of a filmmaking career, particularly when that career has encompassed so many interesting and worthwhile films (and not just the usual suspects: The Night of the Shooting Stars and Padre Padrone) such as Allonsanfan, Good Morning Babylon and especially the more recent Caesar Must Die. With the death this past April of Vittorio Taviani, pictured below, right, with his brother Paolo, the duo's final film is now upon us.

I only wish RAINBOW: A PRIVATE AFFAIR had proven a better good-bye. God knows, the movie is lovely to look at, with crack cinematography by Simone Zampagni and sets and costumes so redolent of the movie's time frame (World War II Italy). Trouble is, these lustrous and nostalgic visuals (as below) call so much attention to themselves, they often overwhelm the movie's story, told in very fractured fashion by the filmmakers, who themselves adapted to the screen the novel by Beppe Fenoglio about Italian partisans in WWII.

The story has to do with a young partisan, played by the usually excellent Luca Marinelli (at right, below and at bottom), who, here, seem mostly in some sort of daze, on the run from Mussolini's Black Shirts, as he keeps flashing back to various memories of a love triangle between himself, his best friend Giorgio (Lorenzo Richelmy of Netflix's Marco Polo, dancing above, right) and their would-be girlfriend Fulvia (played by Valentina Bellè, above, left, and at bottom, center).

Simultaneously, our sort-of hero travels through the mist and over hill and valley -- first looking for Giorgio, and then after the latter has been captured by the Black Shirts, trying to find and capture a Black Shirt to trade for Giorgio's release. On some level the plot here makes little sense realistically, but the Tavianis seem to have imagined it to be a kind of fantasy anyway, so perhaps that doesn't matter much. The past, in all its pristine beauty, resonates most. The present, in all its degradation, violence and torture, registers as more of a dream.

If so, it's a dream that isn't nearly as strong as it might be. I am glad to have seen the film, but it will not remain in my memory as one of the brothers' best. Rainbow: A Private Affair (dumb title. the addition of "Rainbow" to the original Italian title is just silly, even if the song Over the Rainbow figures as part of the nostalgic past), in Italian with English subtitles and running 84 minutes, screens twice at Opens Roads: Friday, June 1, at 2pm and Monday, June 4, at 6:30pm. Click here for more info or to purchase tickets.

There'll be more to come on Open Roads over the following few days.
Stay tuned...

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