Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2011 12:25 pm 
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"These things in Italy aren't Mafia; they're normal"

Some Say No is a new Italian comedy with a very serious subject: the way the country's society is corroded by favoritism that pushes inferior people to the top in virtually every field. In Florence, three thirty-somethings band together to wage their own war on the system. Each of them is a person of talent who has been pushed out by "favorites" or raccomandati, people who have muscled in on the promotions they ought to have gotten by pulling strings.

Max (the handsome, energetic Luca Argentero) is a talented journalist on a local daily newspaper, just about to be permanently hired, when the daughter of a famous writer gets his job and his boss is too spineless and dependent on the preference system to oppose the move. Irma (Paola Cortellesi, underrepresented here) is now one of the best younger doctors at her hospital. She is just about to sign onto a permanent contract when the head physician’s new Australian girlfriend (Harriet MacMasters-Green) receives the post instead. Samuele (Paolo Ruffini, the real comic actor of the three) is a brilliant young expert on penal law. After years of virtually unpaid scholarship and teaching, he's just learned that his academic chair is going to his boss’ sleazy and thoroughly incompetent Lothario of a son-in-law. Ten years of exams, degrees, and fine performance in training positions have added up to nothing for this frustrated trio. They're hopping mad.

Max, Irma and Samuele compare notes and decide to get revenge on the three who have usurped their rightful positions, trading victims to avoid detection. They call their little band, which later on they hope to expand into a movment, "The Pirates." Samuele's stipulation is that they commit no high crimes. However, they don't stick to that rule. Things go so well Samuele hires local gangsters to harras Irma's rival and her porky husband. Max winds up wooing the woman reporter who got his job, as well as, briefly, Irma. Since the victims -- especially the head doctor and his Australian wife -- have had their pet birds disappeared and mock-roasted and their front door walled up -- have protested to the authorities, this also turns into a comical fumbling police procedural. It is not by accident that the filmmakers have the cops distracted by this minor matter from investigating the serious threat of Eastern European gangster activity.

This plot exists to deride and mock various Italian contemporary social issues, most notably people who get positions they don't deserve, but the pill is made very sweet indeed by the entertaining infusion of comedy, romance, and risk the filmmakers have devised. The mix is both classic and timely. The details of upper-bourgeois elbow-rubbing and the universal acceptance of immoral behavio are very much of today' Italy. It's made very clear how the system of racommandati is endemic, undermining values and performance country-wide. This is a "national social and democratic comedy," as one Italian review (Marzia Galdolfi, called it. But the social comedy mocking greed and incompetence belongs to a world familiar to the audience of Molière or Goldoni.

Avellino has worked a lot in TV comedy. This is his third feature. This is a comedy too, but it's energized by very real and justified anger at Italy -- questo paese di merda,, as they call it, "this shitty country" -- for its overwhelming system of nepotism and graft.

Screened for this review at the San Francisco Film Society presentation of the New Italian Cinema series for 2011 at the Landmark Embarcadero Center Cinema. It's the international premiere of C’è chi dice no, 95 min. Written by Fabio Bonifacci andGiambattista Avellino. Cinematography by Roberto Forza. The film was distributed (in Italy) by Universal Pictures International. It was released April 8, 2011 in Italy and is now available there on DVD.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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