Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:05 pm 
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Two roads diverged....

In his first feature One Life, Maybe Two/Due Vite per Caso, Arnadio treads the familiar path of alternative lives à la Sliding Doors. The variation is that this takes us into the very contemporary world of a young middle class Italian with ordinary prospects and some rough experiences ahead of him. The film opens up when two guys rear end a cop car. Or, more accurately, there are two alternative lives that split off when Matteo (rising young star Lorenzo Balducci) has to brake for a stationary car. In the action-packed first version, he hits it, and he and his friend are beaten by the plainclothes cops, particularly one plainclothes cop (Ivano De Matteo), and he is taken in and charged; his friend Sandro (Riccardo Cicogna), who has cut his finger, goes to the hospital. This sends Matteo's life in a certain direction, he stays at his job in a plant nursery, and besides pursuing his own case, he gets involved in radical politics. In the other version, he stops just short of hitting the car and there's no unpleasant confrontation with the cops.

In this life, he gets fed up with his lack of prospects in his job and goes into training with the Carabinieri, the national police force. The film goes back and forth with sequences of the two alternative lives, using a more saturated palette to distinguish one life from the other. Certain events are independent of whatever Matteo does and exist in both versions, such as the heart attack of his father Pietro (Teco Celio). A Czech named Ivan (Ivan Franek) met in a bar seems to invade Matteo's life bringing a trail of sleaze. There are two women in Matteo's life,. He has a crush on a pretty barmaid, Sonia (Isabella Ragonese, of The First Assignment), at the club he and his friends hang out at, Waiting for Godard. He has also met and become involved with a girl from a good family, Letitia (Sarah Felberbaum, of The Jewel). The core idea is that a guy his early twenties doesn't know where he wants his life to go and it couls spin in many different directions; and the story appeals to young audiences in the same situation. On the other hand, Matteo seems to encounter frustration and anger and end in violence in both versions, whether he rear ended the cop car or not. The film is freely based on a story by a story by Marco Bosonette, "Death of a Confused 18-Year-Old," and references Truffauts 400 Blows, particularly the freeze-frame ending down by the beach. The handsome, sweet-faced Balducci seems like victim being prepared for slaughter in harsh economic and political times.

If you watch for philosophical profundities or even telling interrelationships between the two alternative narratives you will not find them. If, on the other hand, you watch for scenes of how Italians live, work, and talk now, this movie is fresh and alive and well made. Above all you can watch it for views of the appealing and handsome young star Lorenzo Balducci as Matteo, and he does a good job of seeming like the same guy in both narratives and thus providing a unifying strain. The film reads better as a series of somewhat unrelated slices of life than as a consistent or enlightening narrative. But Aronadio has a conclusion: he brings his two alternative lives together a the end to suggest that despite variant actions, a person's path winds up in the same place.

Theis is a highly competent work but is also unfortunately yet one more example of the fact that the once great Italian film world has lost its once distinctive and powerful direction; the effect for all the skill in shooting scenes winds up feeling overall a bit timid, tentative, and sketchy. Whether or not Aronadio will develop a distinctive style and viewpoint remains to be seen. However, this film shows mainstream talents and Alessandro Aronadio has an excellent background.

Born in Rome in 1975, Aronadio has written fiction and scripts for film, and is a photographer with a degree in psychology who wrote a thesis on David Cronenberg. He studied film in LA on a Fulbright fellowship. He has worked with Luc Besson, Giuseppe Tornatore, Mario Martone, Roberto Andò, and in the US on a series of independent productions. He also directed commercials, videoclips, short films, and documentaries.

One Life, Maybe Two was screened for this review at the New Italian Ceinema series produced by the San Francisco Film Society at Landmark's Embarcadero Cinema, Nov. 13-20, 2011. Due vite per caso debuted at Rotterdam in January 2010 and was released in Italy May 7, 2011. Also shown at Berlin and at Cannes (out of competition). Jonathan Pacheco's The House Next Door (Slant) has a smart discussion of this film written in connection with its showing in NYC in June 2011 as part of the Open Roads Italian film series at Lincoln Center.

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