Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Italian workers and nuns unite in Samad Zarmandili's progressive comedy, BEATE

Religion and Marxism-lite unite in the very nicely-done Italian comedy from 2018, BEATE (in English, blessed), in which a group of female, suddenly-unemployed workers in a lingerie factory join forces with a group of nuns from a local convent -- in order to keep those workers working while stopping the convent from being surreptitiously turned into a seaside resort. Yeah: Capitalism strikes again. Or tries to. This being somewhat of a fantasy -- a quite dear one, nonetheless -- the bad guys have a bit tougher time of it. Also, it must be said that European workers, Italians and French in particular, have more of a history of intelligent, sometimes fierce (and still current) worker solidarity than does the American variety, in which trade unions seem nearly defunct. (Thanks so much, Amazon.)

The filmmaker (shown at right) is a name new to me -- Samad Zarmandili -- though he worked as first assistant director on two excellent Italian movies, 20 Cigarettes and Valzer, the latter being one of TrustMovies favorite films of all time, the filmmaker of which, Salvatore Maira, is one of the three credited writers on Beate (and not by coincidence, I suspect). Both filmmakers must share a very progressive attitude. 

Signore Zarmandili and his writers set up their tale quietly and firmly, allowing, within the framework of a 90-minute screen comedy, as much character development as plot development, all of which makes for more depth, as well as enjoyment.

In the leading role of the woman who organizes the workers is the excellent Sicilian-born actress Donatella Finocchiaro (above, from Secret Journey, Sorelle Mai and Terraferma). As usual Ms Finocchiaro brings a lovely, appealing combination of intelligence and easy-going sex appeal to the role. 

The "leader" of those nuns -- played with proper reticence and discretion by Maria Roveran (above) -- turns out to be one of the youngest and least tutored (but also the most aware and willing), and the movie's combination of religion and labor proves pretty irresistible because it takes seriously the Italian need for religious faith without ever succumbing to any insistence on belief in miracles and the like.

In fact, the single "miracle" that helps bring things to a proper close is more ironic than anything else, and were Beate not such an endearing and kindly little film, you might also call what happens here deeply cynical. (The Capitalists can now make even more money off religion than they might have from their real estate project!).

The movie's attitude toward sexuality is properly adult, as well. Humanity's foibles, particularly those of the male of the species, are not going to change anytime soon, so let's accept them/enjoy them (or not) -- and move on. 

And, sure, labor can work with the Church (wouldn't that be nice?!), and women with men, and retailers with wholesalers, and everyone can profit -- well, somewhat. Cooperation outdoes competition, employing locals is better than outsourcing, and acceptance beats being judgmental -- at least for the length of time you're viewing this little charmer.

Another "find" from Corinth Films, in Italian with English subtitles, and running 90 minutes, the movie opened in virtual cinemas this past weekend. Click here for more information and to view the several locations from which you can choose. 

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