Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 5:18 pm 
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Home ain't what it used to be

Stafano Nardini (Valerio Mastandrea) is nearly 36 and he's playing with a young punk group in Rome. Classically trained, he used to be on the covers of magazines, but the audience makes him feel old; his career seems to have stagnated. It's been four years that he's been working to bring out a record. He doesn't have a girlfriend or a real bed to sleep in: it's time to reconnect with the family he hasn't seen in a good long while.

When the lead singer gets injured at a concert, Stefano packs up his guitar in his battered car and drives back to Fellini's home town, Rimini, where the Nardinis run a substantial fruit-packing factory. It's a surprise to his parents and his brother and sister, who're all happy to see him. Soon he's deeply involved in all sorts of revelations and problems. All of a sudden he seems to be indispensable, which is pretty funny considering that as a rock musician, Stefano has long been the odd man out in his industrial family.

Things have changed at home since Stefano was la st there. His father (Teco Celio), a cherubic little man, has had a heart attack and now only plays golf. His mother spends lots of time with a trendy guru seeking peace in a "sciamanic journey" course. The running of the factory has fallen to brother Alberto (Giuseppe Battiston, of Breat and Tulips and last year's Open Roads selection, Eugenio Cappuccio's One Out of Two). A former star athlete who's now overweight, Alberto survives on manic energy and a variety of antidepressants. He's clearly at the end of his tether in more ways then one. As factory manager, Alberto has not been doing such a good job of it, apparently. The business is showing huge losses, everything is in hock, and the workers are owed three months' pay. Since their father isn't usually reporting to the factory any more, Alberto is doing everything he can to hide the facts from him. Meanwhile Alberto's also currently separated from his wife, and sees his two little children only on weekends. Later some of Stefano's and Alberto's male school friends decide they know the solution to Alberto's problems--and her work name is Nadine.

It's more than obvious that if Stefano thought he was returning to simpler, more idyllic life than he was living in Rome, he was pretty far off.

Stefano immediately shows himself to be a goof-up himself, since he goes joyriding with Alberto's two kids one afternoon in a parking lot and gets stopped by the cops. And this only underlines the family's and their friends' notion that Sefano's a misfit. In fact Stefano has had his wild, drug-laced years. But nonetheless at this point he gives every evidence of being more stable and perhaps more alert than his other family members, except maybe Michela (Anita Caprioli), his sister.

Trying to jolt his parents awake, Stefano impulsively tells them that Michela is a lesbian. She has given up on university studies and now focuses completely on her job caring for performing dolphins. She has a roommate, Laura.

A lot of Alberto's assumptions are wrong. During his stay in Rimini, he reconnects with old friends, some of whom can help, one of whom has had a nervous breakdown. He and Alberto work to resolve the factory's credit problems. This involves making nice with a young politician that they know, who seems to have a special friendship with Michela. In the end the solution is going to come from perhaps the least expected quarter.

Don't Think About It/Non pensarci is a film made up of mildly manic and often amusing set pieces that move us around among its multiple locations with a steady rhythm, focusing alternately on one family member or another. Of course there is a sense of urgency, especially for Alberto--whose identity crisis Stefano can totally relate to. There's no essential logic to the narrative, but that's an important part of its charm. All the main characters are very simpatico and Mastrandrea and Battiston's are nicely delineated in this warm film whose charm is the way it sees life as a work in progress. A musical sound track that ranges from Chopin to rock links sound to character. After the emotional repression of the Open Roads noir, The Girl by the Lake, Don't Think About It, with its open-ended but celebratory ending, felt very appealing for its loose structure and humanity. Zanasi keeps things consistently light and amusing without descending into frivolity or silliness. I guess if Non pensarci has a motto, it's this: You can't give up your family (especially if you're Italian), but you don't have to take on all its problems.

Shown at the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at Lincoln Center June 2008, this is Zanasi's fourth feature.

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┬ęChris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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