Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2016 9:09 am 
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Cristina Comencini: Latin Lover (2015)


Chatty ladies

Latin Lover (the Italian title) is a much simpler affair, a familiar ensemble piece that has little that's new about it, but it does have a good cast and provides some entertainment. The focus, which could do as well for a play as a movie, gathers the five daughters of a famous Italian hearthrob actor no long winnying with us, each by a different mother, who come together at his home town ten years after his death for a memorial service in his honor. The mothers notably on hand for the occasion are his two wives, played with charm and verve by Virna Lisi and Marisa Paredes. The "French" daughter is played by the always appealing Valeria Bruni Tedeschhi. who always manages to give nuance to even the briefest scenes.

As the brooding Latin Lover, known simply as Saverio we get Francesco Scianna, whose pouts and looks are up to the demands of this purely visual role, since he's frequently shown on screen. As Stephen Holden noted summarizing this film as the opener of the summer's Lincoln Center Open Roads Italian series, one of this film's charms is its "witty bogus film clips in which the star suggests a composite of Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman and other vintage Italian screen heartthrobs." The most obvious thing the screenplay does is bring up the possibility that the father if not mother of somebody may not be as was supposed - though this is dismissed by one of the daughters as water under the bridge.

Latin Lover, 104 mins., debuted at the Berlinale Feb. 2015; at least five other festivals including Open Roads, Munich, New Zealand and Göteborg. Screened for this review as part of the Nov. 2016 New Italian Cinema series where it shows 9:10 p.m. Sat. 19 Nov. 2016.

Giuseppe M. Gaudino: Anna/Per amor vostro


The gray of Naples

Giuseppe M. Gaudino, who has won awards for his special visual effects, makes more than ample use of them in his soft-gray digital feature Anna/Per amor vostro , which is set in his native Naples (and spoken with a Neopolitan patois) and primarily notable for its remarkable surreal, expressionistic style. A lot of stuff happens - the lurid plot and characters are continually over the top - but it's pretty much swamped by the odd visuals and editing. Of that is your thing (and why shouldn't it be?) you may want to see this movie, but if you want such humble qualities as plot, character, or emotion, don't get your hopes up. But believe me, the visual manipulations, sound design, and editing are highly original. Unfortunately as the critic for the French journal Studio Ciné Live succinctly put it: "too many effects kill the effect."

It's difficult for us to ground the story in Anna Ruotolo (Valeria Golino), though the actress won a Venice Best Actress award for her dedicated performance and she works through her scenes with the unflappable dedication of a slightly worse-for-wear Isabelle Huppert. Anna is a doormat, but a durable one. She seems to be the energy center of a teeming ghetto family. At one extreme is her verbally (and sometimes physically) abusive husband (Massimiliano Gallo). Another center of attraction is their son Arturo (Edoardo Crò). Arturo is deaf, and when the whole family gather around the dinner table, they "yell" in sign language. This approach is applied throughout: everyone screams, but very quietly.

The dialogue is one of the film's original but distracting touches. But there's a lot that happens in the visuals that's hard even to describe. One-on-one dialogue is shot from multiple angles, near and far, and the editing pops around among them in split seconds. Images themselves are also fractured by digital manipulation. Famously, a Sundance success, Tangerine, was shot in a somewhat distracting way using an iPhone, anamorphic adapter lenses, and a Steadicam. But the look and images were stable throughout the film and the action stayed firmly focused on the two transgender prostitutes. Again though, what cinematographer Matteo Cocco and editor Giogiò Franchini do with Gaudino is fascinating, but it makes it impossible to follow the film.

We ware more aware of editing and camera motion than dialogue and feeling, though we get that the feelings are stifled, violent, and contradictory. Why everyone at home is on Anna's case never seems quite clear, though in the convoluted delayed plot revelations it comes out that she was involved in dire dealings as an adolescent. Or did she just take the main rap because she'd only go to juvy, not jail, and other family members would go free?

Yes, Anna has just gotten hired as a cue-card person for a TV soap. And yes, she sort-of falls for the male lead, Michele Migliaccio (Adriano Giannini). She has an exaggerated respect for and fear of him and lives for his favors. They either spend some idyllic time together, or she dreams it. Dream, reality, and flashback to (imaginary?) childhood moments get equal weight in Gaudino's scheme of things and he skips between them in the twinkling of an eye, though dashes of color laid into the pale digital grays indicate Anna's fantasy-memories checking in.

As things draw to an arbitrary close, Anna has a fight with a family member on the roof where she's hanging out the laundry, and gets locked out. She eventually jumps, this apparently echoing a performance she was put through dressed as an angel when a little girl. How this resolves things is a secret that lies hidden in Gaudino's devious mind. In accepting her acting prize Golino said of Anna "she contains a thousand characters." That's the trouble. We never know if she's strong or weak, bad or good, romantic or practical, violent or wimpy.

Anna/Per amor vostro (also known as "For Your Love"), 110 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 2015, opening theatrically in Italy later that month; a few more international film festivals. Released in France Apr. 2016 as Par AMouf, it did horribly with the half dozen critics who reviewed it (AlloCiné press rating 1.9). Screened for this review as part of the 2016 San Francisco New Italian Cinema series (showtime 1 p.m. Sun. 20 Nov.).

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