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Tag: Italy

La Migliore Offerta (The Best Offer – 2014)

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MONEY    Monstrometer4
LONELINESS    Monstrometer3
BOREDOM    Monstrometer3
FEAR    Monstrometer2
TIME   Monstrometer2

True Fake

The best this movie has to offer is Geoffrey Rush, giving a subtly layered performance and elevating an otherwise classic (and classy) heist material to the heights of tragedy – and redemption. At the beginning, Virgil Oldman is seen as a cold fish, an auctioneer at the peak of his worldwide reputation. His refined eye can’t be fooled as he scrutinises works of art he manipulates with gloved hands, gloves of which he has dozens of pairs meticulously aligned in a special cabinet. He does not even take them off when he dines at his favourite restaurant, where he has his table and his monogrammed tableware. He is, at his core, disgusted by other people and refuses to touch them or their possessions.

But Virgil has a secret: for years, he has been under-evaluating arcane paintings of great value, expertising them as forgeries on which his partner in crime and failed painter Billy (Donald Sutherland, succulent as usual) successfully bids at auctions. Billy gets a cut of the profit and Virgil hangs his loots in his secret vault, where he can gaze at them in solitude. From the size of the vault and the number of paintings, one can say that this stunt has been lasting for quite some years.

Claire Ibbetson, a mysterious woman (isn’t there always one?) calls Virgil and ask him for an evaluation of a big collection of furniture and paintings. Reluctant at first, he finally agrees to meet her but she misses their first appointment, then another. He finally gets to see the collection but not its owner whom, her servant informs him, nobody has seen for twelve years as she suffers from agoraphobia and only leaves her panic room when everyone else has left the villa. She seems to be quite the bipolar recluse, with violent mood swings which only amplify his curiosity.

Said curiosity is heightened again when he finds a piece of machinery in the villa’s basement. After being expertised by a genius mechanics with whom he’s in regular contact, the fragment reveals to be part of a 18th century automaton built by Vaucanson (he of the mechanical duck fame), which value if completed would be inestimable. A game of cat and mouse starts between the auctioneer and the potential seller, to whom he hides his discovery. He spies on her and finally see her 50′ after the film started, and talk to her only well into the second hour.

Time and again he returns to the villa, grabbing here and there pieces of the automaton, which builds in parallel with the tension between the elusive Claire and himself. His initial mistrust is mollified by  her constant yo-yoing between fear and attraction. They quarrel like lovers well before becoming so. Anything and its contrary, under a constant suspicion of treachery and betrayal. Scopophilia plays an important role in their relationship; he buys her couture dresses and jewels, in the hope she will get better and can get rid of her phobia and join him for a trip abroad.

One won’t be so cruel as to spoil the ending of a movie, which is predictable but elegantly put together, with the help of a paralysed midget gifted with eidetic memory. Virgil loses some, wins some and, at the time of the majestic last scene in a Prague restaurant, is a changed man. Meticulously filmed, well played by all involved and benefiting from an Ennio Morricone score, The Best Offer is a quiet thriller, almost perfect but for a few inconsistencies, fortunately appearing early enough in the picture not to impair the final momentum. There is always something authentic in a forgery, and everything can be faked but what one is feeling towards oneself. Whatever the distance self-inflicted between one and the rest of the world, one remains part of it, for better or for worse. A brilliant machine with a telltale heart, The Best Offer deserves its title.

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Il Divo (2008)

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MONEY   Monstrometer3
LONELINESS    Monstrometer3
BOREDOM    Monstrometer2
FEAR    Monstrometer3
TIME    Monstrometer4

 

Truth is the End of the World

Splendidly visual, Il Divo is anything but a biopic of  Giulio Andreotti, an austere and prominent Italian politician, 25 times minister and 7 times Prime Minister between 1964 and 1989. It is more of a portrait, fragmented and elusive as they best portraits are; it also offers an unique view on politics and murder during the bonfire of vanities that were Italian politics at the near end of the 20th century.

The only creature that can live long and prosper in a bonfire is a salamander, and that’s precisely what Andreotti (Toni Sorvillo, extraordinary) looks and acts like. Devoid of any visible emotions save for his hand motions, translated to Fanny Ardant in a transient role by his devoted secretary, the Presidente (of the Council, not the Republic, and that’s the problem) “doesn’t succumb to lesser vices” but ice cream. He doesn’t drink anything but water, he doesn’t smoke, he is not cheating on his wife Livia (Anna Bonaiuto, first seen being bored during the blueprint for the bunga bunga parties to come, during which the Finance ministry makes a fool of himself). Prone to migraines, he toasts with aspirin and read giallos in the Senate. He is as opaque as opaque can be before it gets dark.

Andreotti is by all means a survivor and a loner, a condition emphasised by his constant crossing of gigantic halls of power, in which no one or nothing can come in his way but a Persian cat with vairon eyes. He is opinionated to the point of brilliance, once telling Pope John XXIII “Pardon me Your Holiness but you do not know anything about the Vatican”. He has a dry sense of humour, the mere shadow of a smile touching Sorvillo’s lips when he’s asked the question “Have you ever danced?”, to which he answers “All my life, Madam.”

His entourage, presented one by one at the movie beginning, is a clique of rather shady Christian Democrats, including a cardinal nicknamed “His Healthiness”. When they congregate at Andreotti’s, his secretary announce them by saying “Storm clouds are gathering”, an excellent definition of what is happening. They plot their next moves, wishing but failing to have the Prime Minister elected President. They exchange jokes about past Popes. Andreotti hardly smiles. In a scene stupendous for the banality with which it suggests the growing chasm between him and his wive, they just hold hands watching TV, switching from a news program to a variety show. He doesn’t look at her, lost in thought; she looks at his profile for a long while, searching for the smallest trace of the man she once married. She does not find anything.

Last part of Il Divo deals with Andreotti’s trials and tribulations. The trial of the century opens, based on his presumed links with Mafia boss Toto Riina (Enzo Rai, scary as hell). We know the two met because the event was shown earlier in the movie. Still, Andreotti is so convincing in his denial that one doubts what he just witnessed. Was it magical realism, like the scene in which a skateboard incongruously rolls through the Senate hallway, or was it history? It’s impossible to say. Andreotti is an extra-terrestrial, a very cautious turtle carrying on him the weight of political decades, and you can feel every gram of it leadening, but never weakening his stance. The movie is a fucking masterpiece.

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Spring (2014)

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MONEY    Monstrometer1
LONELINESS    Monstrometer3
BOREDOM    Monstrometer2
FEAR    Monstrometer3
TIME    Monstrometer4

 

We Will Always Have Bari

Spring is an exquisite tale. A story of the innocent abroad meeting the wrong the only woman in true Henry James fashion, it uncoils along the Puglian coast in long, broad, carnal lapses that are as much satisfaction than longing for that unaccessible moment, the surrendering of self, the end of the world.

Yes it has flaws, mostly uselss CGI, but one guesses it is a 21st century thing, a bit like too much gilding in rococo or too many conversations sacrées during the Renaissance. Spring is as much about growing pains that it is about blossoming. But the acting is right and the camera work is fluid. What the story owes to Lovecraft is more than mitigated by things as simple as a bottle of wine, an olive tree, love lost and found.

The best movie monsters are those one could actually love. Spring has such one, but holds much more. It has a prey that is human, full bodied and sweet as a Negroamaro. One can not foretell that at the beginning, when the film seems aiming at an Italian rendition of Hostel, but this rare feast is accomplished with near nothing, a bit of alien dialogue, a tree dying to allow the growth of a new one, and the moon over the ocean. It has, of course, the unspeakable, almost unfilmable splendor of Italy.

A volcanoo is erupting at the end, but this is not what is really happening. A couple of sound effects does the trick.This is where the Rite of Spring has led us, gaping, the ocean rolling its indifferent waves, and we feel happy, and amazed, and wiped out. This is a lovely movie.

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