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DANIELE LUCHETTI: THE TIES/LACCI (2020) - FLC OPEN ROADS: NEW ITAIAN CINEMA

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ALBA ROHRWACHER, LUIGI LO CASCIO IN LACCI

It's not easy to suffer in a nice way

Since his first film,]My Brother Is an Only Child (2007), Daniele Luchetti has been doing conflictual family sagas. So here we are again, with the thirty-year troublous times of Aldo (initially Luigi Lo Cascio, later Silvio Orlando) and Vanda (Alba Rohrwacher, later Laura Morante), a couple with two children. Vanda expels Aldo in the "years of lead" time of the early eighties in Naples when in the opening sequence he reveals he has slept with another woman. This sends him to live with that woman, Lidia (Linda Caridi), in Rome, where his well liked literary radio program is produced. He returns to the once cozy family scene for visits, but doesn't do it responsibly, as a family court session reveals.

A Venice Variety review observes that it's in the little, specific details that the film excels and in its efforts at generalizations that it falls down. Such a detail is signaled by Lacci, the title, which means "shoelaces," not the more general "ties" resorted to buy the translater. Aldo and his son meet years later, hardly knowing each other, and find they tie their shoes in the same peculiar way the son obviously learned from dad early on - an unexpected, lone, link.

This has drawn more attention than any of Luchetti's recent films, due in part to a cast with names like Lo Cascio, Rohrbacher, Morante and Giovanna Mezzogiorno, but the Variety critic observes that its a "minor-key affair, closer to the "warm, soapy storytelling" of his aforementioned debut than the "stentorian social realism" of his 2010 Our Life/La nostra vita (reviewed by me in Nov., 2011). But this is more epic than Variety may acknowledge, an epic of m maximum marital discomfort, ambivalence, and unhappiness, the story of a divorce that never happens.de

Though dealing with purely domestic issues, the film unreels in a somewhat complicated manner, not linearly, not chronologically. It jumps to when Aldo and Vanda are old, the kids nearly middle aged, when they seem reunited, and there is a destructive event in the house and Aldo has 2-second flashbacks to his earlier life. It's not clear what's been going on. Another sequence, back to earlier times, has Aldo with his parents. He has brought the kids; he doesn't want to have them be with Lidia, for various reasons. In the discussion he asserts that if Vanda has "gone too far," as his mother says, it's he who has handled things badly, and he makes the telling statement, "It's not easy to suffer in a nice way" ("non è facile soffrire in modo simpatico"). That about sums things up. He's unsympathetic, but she's annoying.

Much focus is on the early times, a little on the late times. The gap is filled by certain fetish moments. There is a special trick box from Bulgaria that hides some revealing things. There is the twice-revealed secret of the name of the family cat, Labes. There is a long final surprise sequence between the adult Anna (Mezzogiorno0 and adult Sandro (Adriano Giannini), both actors splendid, the ending very implausible, one would think, but a splendid way of breaking the tedium of all the grim bickering we've been saddled with throughout the movie.

Luchetti is working from a novel by Domenico Starnone, in collaboration on the screenplay with Starnone and Francesco Piccolo.

Lacci/The Ties, 100 mins.,debuted at Zurich and Venice, showing also in Raindance, Stockholm, Kolkata, Hong Kong and others. Screened online for this review as part of the FLC Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series (May 28-Jun. 6, 2021).

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