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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 3:15 pm 
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ISABELLA RAGONESE IN SOMEWHERE AMAZING

Nothing amazing here

In Giorgia Cecere's unrewarding film Somewhere Amazing/In un posto bellissimo Isabella Ragonese plays Lucia, an uptight, constricted married woman who lives with her husband, Andrea (Alessio Boni) and teenage son, Tommaso (Michele Griffo), and runs a flower shop with a female partner, Carla (Tatiana Lepore). A nice life, the blurb says. But who says so? She takes no joy in it whatever, clearly. And it's hard to see much of a change in her or her life at film's end. Ragonese in this movie reminded me of the sad repressed plainness of Betsy Blair in Juan Antonio Bardem''s Calle Mayor, but without the powerful plot line.

In reviewing Cecere's previous feature, The First Assignment (2010), I commented that there was "virtually no there there," and that applies even better to this meandering tale, coauthored by Pierpaolo Pirone as was the previous film. The latter at least had the distinctive trajectory of a young woman (played again by the plain-Jane Ragonese) being sent to a remote location to teach and thus getting separated from the man she loves. What happens here is much more vague. Nobody goes anywhere, and any transformations are strictly in the eye of the beholder.

One of Andrea's female coworkers approaches Lucia one day and tells her that her husband is "unusually interested" in someone at work. She never asks for specifics or challenges Andrea. She simply begins acting strangely. When the family goes on an outing and her husband is impulsively going with Tommaso for a swim, someone comes and grabs his trousers, which turn out to have his watch in the pocket. Later she spots the culprit, an apparently homeless young Arab called Faysal (Faysal Abbaoui) living by selling toys and other junk. Lucia not-quite-befriends Faysal, except that he's (understandably) none too friendly and she's too withdrawn to make a real connection. She just sort of stalks him. This is apparently meant to be a sign of her estrangement from her life and her need to connect.

Meanwhile Lucia starts taking driving lessons, which involve practical sessions and classes with a lonely teacher called Alessio (Paolo Sassanelli), who has a sick dog, and takes an interest in her. When he asks her for dates she never says she's married or gives him a definite answer, till one day she rather abruptly says she will never sleep with him. One of the young women in the class befriends her, and she goes dancing with her and others, fitting in, up to a point, with the younger crowd. She keeps running into Faysal.

One day in winter when the weather is bad she finds Faysal clearly ill, coughing and with a high fever, and when he refuses to let her take him to a doctor or hospital, takes him home and has him lie on the living room couch. Tommaso and his schoolmate are shocked by this, and call his dad, who comes home and expels the unfortunate Faysal - who is never heard from again. A cohort reports he left his bag and possessions in "the gardens" where he takes refuge.

A blurb suggests that her "act of kindness" to Faysal inspires Lucia with confidence and moves her to revive her life. But her "kindness" has amounted to less than nothing, since she has lacked the will to stand up to her husband and protect the sick young man from being cast out into the street. Faysal may well have died after Andrea kicks him out. Any confidence inspired by this chain of events would be ironic indeed.

As the film drags on, Lucia gets her driving license and annoys Tommaso by wanting to take him on a drive. She sees Alessio, the driving instructor, again; he has acquired a fresh, female dog. So what? This is an example of Italian cinema's current tendency to blandness swerving into utter pointlessness. The meaninglessly titled Somewhere Amazing is an exercise in futility. It is as muddled and timid film. Jay Weissberg of Variety called The First Assignment "unexciting and uninvolving." No change this time, and more than one Italian critic, such as Enrico Azzano in Quinlan and Federico Boni in cineblog, agree.

Somewhere Amazing/Un posto bellissimo, 99 mins., released in Italy 27 Aug. 2015, was shown at Göteborg 30 Jan. 2016. Screened for this review as part of the 2016 SFFS New Italian Cinema series, showing 6:30 p.m. 17 Nov. 2016.

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