Archive for ‘Drama’


Corpo Celeste, Heavenly Body

by Marianne Wi

Director, Alice Rohrwacher is the screenwriter and director of this her first feature film, she has a very famous older sibling Alba, they were both born in Firenze by an Italian mother and German father, I have a feeling we will see a lot more from this younger member of the Rohrwacher family. Corpo Celeste was first presented at Cannes Film Festival 2011 receiving good reviews and will be at The Taormina Film Festival later in June 2011, it has received 3 nominations for The Silver Ribbon, Il Nastro d’argento, Best Director Newcomer for Alice Rohrwacher and two for Best Supporting Actress Anita Capriol, who plays the mother and Yle Vianello for her role as Marta, personally I would have liked Pasqualina Scuncia to have received a nomination for her role as Santa, she was awesome giving a solid, heartfelt and well-played performance, most of all she had a lived in face, excellent casting for her role. I was lucky to see this film, it was only shown in Catania for a week nowhere else in Sicily, I sort of understand why, it really is everyday life in the South, there would be little interest in seeing what virtually amounts to a Docudrama for many people here, at a price of 7 Euros. I saw Corpo Celeste with a German friend who has lived in Catania for 40 years, she positively hated the film and saw no purpose for its existence, 2 years ago I would have though it patronising with too many caricatures, a bit of a cheap shot at the south, today I think it is a very accurate portrayal of life in the South, there is always a Saint that needs to be aired, a Madonna that needs to be resting at someones house for a day or 2, while the ladies of the Church gather to sing her on her way, I think Corpo Celeste, will do very well on the International scene, a gutsy first film from Rohrwacher the Younger.

Cast :   Yle Vianello, Anita Caprioli, Pasqualina Scuncia, Salvatore Cantalupe, Renato Carpentieri, Paola Lavini

Synobsis : Marta, a 13 year old introverted adolescent has recently relocated to Calabria, Southern Italy with her older sister and mother, after 10 years in Switzerland. We follow her search for a part to play in this deeply religious neighborhood, with its bleak dilapidated exterior, poverty and petty crime. The church is the centre of everyday life in the south, Marta must prepare herself for her confirmation, she attend catechism classes run by the local Catholic Church, Santa runs these classes like a pop-quize, she does her utmost under very difficult circumstances to spread the word and prepare these youngsters for the big day “seeing the Spirit is like wearing really cool sunglasses”. On an unscheduled away day with the Priest, to a derelict and deserted village, collecting an obsolite Jesus, while making various stop-overs in the small villages drumming up signatures for his promotion to a more important church, Marta gets her first period adding to her problems. The scene in the church where Marta sensually explore a wooden and very dusty Jesus was excellent, Marta is a girl of few words yet her questioning of the church does not go down well, Jesus goes flying off the cliff perhaps because he was angry or was he mad as some people have told her…… If you are looking for a glimpse of southern Italy today, this is a film for you .


Il ragazzo con la biciletta, The Kid With A Bike, Le gamin au vélo

by Marianne Wi

Director : The Kid With A Bike is directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, you will have heard about them recently as they also wrote the screenplay for this charming film, winning “Best Screenplay” at Cannes last week (24.05.11). The Dardenne brothers are from Belgium, they have been writing screenplays, producing and directing films since 1978 and have a number of great films behind them, “Rosetta” won the Palme d’Or in 1999, “The Child” got a Palme d’Or in 2005 and now their 3rd Palme d’Or for “The Kid With A Bike”, unique and a great class act. Jean-Pierre the older brother is known for his many quips, one being “We are not Spielberg. Spielberg is successful, not us.”  The Kid With A Bike will surely change that and take them out of Europe and worldwide, it cannot fail to be picked by International Film Festivals and I hope sold independently, it is a co-production between Belgium, France and Italy, a film not to be missed.

Cast: Thomas Doret, Cecile De France, Jeremie Reiner, Fabritzio Rongione, Egon Di Mateo

Synopsis: Cyril (Thomas Doret) is a 12 year old boy living in a care-home from which he repeatedly try to escape, looking for his father Guy (Jeremie Reiner) who has moved on without leaving a forwarding address. Cyril’s single-minded approach to find his father is touching yet matter of fact, this little boy is not a victim, he is a resourceful little tyke who will get his way, a fighter. Cyril teams up with Samantha (Cecile De France) with whom he builds a warm yet detached rapore, she becomes his weekend foster parent, a parent with natural parental skills. When Cyril finds his father, a weak self-centred egoist, and has to accept his total rejection, you catch a glimt of Cyril’s well hidden emotions, running deep underneath the matter and fact exterior, although understated and lasting only a few moments, I reached for my hanky, you are not allowed by the Dardenne borthers to dwell in this moment of misery for long, it is upwards and onwards. Cyril get a new best friend Wess (Egon Di Mateo) teaching him the road to crime, the inevitable downfall were felt by us and a few ” mamma mia, no Cyril” was heard in the dark. Cyril, is a strong character something he did not inherit from his father, there will be no spoiler alert….. suffice to say, I left the cinema feeling that despite all the worlds problems there is hope, hope for all of us and most of all hope for Cyril. The Bike, what about the bike I hear you cry…… Cyril, loved his bike, dad sold it, Samantha bought it back , it was stolen a number of times, formed part of many scenes and was his to the end, go see the film.


La misura del confine,”Where is the Border” (Possible English Title)

by Marianne Wi

La misura del confine, The Measure of the Border (Possible English Title) more likely to be named “Where is the Border ?”.

Director:  Andrea Papini, is virtually unknown here in Italy although he has one feature under his belt “La velocità della luce”, “The Speed of Light” 2008, it did not travel well. Papini was born in Piedmont, studied in Milan where he graduated as a Civil Engineer, he is the current President and founder of the satellite network “Microcinema”. I liked this easy-going drama in the Italian alps with stunning views galore.

Cast: Paolo Bonanni, Peppino Mazzotta, Thierry Toscan, Beatrice Orlandini, Giovanni Guardiano, Adriana Ortolani, Tommaso spinelli, Luigi Iacuzio, Roland Alberti, Massimo Zordan, Lorenzo degli Innocenzi

Synobsis:  We have a body, we need an exact border between Switzerland and Italy to establish who has jurisdiction and who can put a claim on the frozen corps, first believed to be very old and therefore good for tourism. Enter 2 surveyors one Swiss one Italian and their back-up teams. The Hotel  on top of the world has stunning views and is run by a young couple with a German shepherd who can both cook ( thats the couple only, not the couple and the dog). We follow some gentle detective work in form of old photos and some well preserved reception books, trying to establish the identity of the body, not quite as old as was first thought. This is not sitting on the edge of your seat sort of a thriller more a gentle Mrs Marble ………


Malavoglia, The House of the Medlar Tree

by Marianne Wi

Malavoglia, is a film based loosely on a book written by Verga named Malavoglia, The House of the Medlar Tree with an eye however loosely on La Terra Trema, The Earth Trembles directed by Visconti back in 1948. I have seen it finally and I was not disappointed, I feared the worst as I love Viscontis La Terra Trema to the point of obsession, a film I saw many years ago, I cried for most of it and am now living in Trezza as a result of it, imagine my trepidation if you can wondering how it had been modernised, I need not have worried.

Director : Pasquale Scimeca is a wonderful Sicilian director, who is not feeling the love in Italy as much as he does abroad, lets not go down that road of prejudices suffice to say that he is known and feted Internationally. Scimeca has a number of features behind him, his first full-length film Il giorno di San Sebastiano, The Day of San Sebastiano released 1994, won a Golden Globe for “Best First Feature” voted for by the press, not that he has not been awarded prices in Italy, his film I briganti di Zabut, Zabut  1998 earned him a special award at Taormina in 1997 and the Jury’s Price in Grosseto.

My favorite film directed by Scimeca was Placido Rizzotto a true story about a Trade Union Leader from Corleone, who was assassinated by the Sicilian Mafia back in 1948, it did very well on The Festival Trail and Italy itelf. Rosso Malpelo another film based on a novel by Verga has sadly never found distribution in Italy and is not out on DVD. I am still waiting to find a copy legal or otherwise, help anyone?. Not that I am condoning piracy, that would be so wrong on so many levels, this being a film blog. Rosso Malpelo hit America by storm, at the Sicilian Film Festival in Miami and Amnesty International, at the Giffoni Film Festival (21 July 2007) gave it an award too. Can I now please have it on DVD ?

Back to Malavoglia, there are many parallels with Visconti’s film, however Scimeca very much made this his own, set in todays Sicily with a struggling family of fishermen with the added touch of an illegal immigrant. It premiered at the London Film Festival in October 2010, followed by Los Angeles International Film Festival 2011 so far it has clocked up 26 Film Festivals around the world including Italy, it has received great reviews. The film has just been released in Italy and has sadly been panned by the critics and the public alike, where the public is concerned perhaps more a case of ” why pay to see poor Sicilians, we see them every year in August”. La Terra Trema, when it was first released back in 1948 was shunned by the public too, as a matter of fact here in Acitrezza it is still not receiving much love,  “A film made by an aristocratic homosexual norther from Italy, what does he know of poor Sicilians”, at least Scimeca has a head start by being Sicilian.

Cast : Antonio Ciurca, Giuseppe Firullo, Omar Noto, Doriana La Fauci, Greta Tomasello, Roberta Zitelli, Elena Ghezzi, Naceur Ben Hammouda, Andrea Paternostro, Giovanni Calcagno, Viscenzo Consolo

Synobsis : We follow a struggling contemporary family of fishermen in a small Sicilian village, their struggle with debts, misfortune, local mafia, drugs, mental illness, interracial romance and their interaction as a family unit is at times touching. They live in The House of the Medlar tree, owns the Providence a boat fraught with accidents, where bad luck follow bad luck, including the death of the father Bastianazzo leading to Maruzza’s the mothers (Doriana Lafauci) mental issues. We see ‘Ntoni (Antonio Ciurca) first encounter with Alfio (Naceur Ben Hammouda) who escapes a ship overflowing with illegal immigrants and their growing friendship. Alfio’s affair with the older sister (Elena Ghezzi) is charming and the younger sister Lia’s decent into loose morals and bad company gives us some great acting. The story is well told and the Sicilian scenery is simply awesome, no special effects for the filming of the storm in Aci Castello, in Sicily a storm is never just a storm in a teacup.


I baci mai dati, Lost Kisses

by Marianne Wi

Director : Roberta Torre is a great Italian female writer and director, who although Milanese by birth has adopted Sicily for many of her films. You will know her from Sud Side Story, South Side Story 2000 –  Angela 2002 –  Mare Nero, The Dark Sea 2006 all of which have seen great success at International Film Festivals. I baci mai dati, Lost Kisses is set in Librino, a poor crime ridden build up area of Catania, Sicily. It was originally named Miracoli a Catania, Miracles in Catania perhaps being re-named due to the double edge ending, it is a film about Saints or is it about Sinners, Torre leave it up to you to decide. The film was at the Venice Film Festival 2010 and is already doing very well at International Festivals, will the Sicilians take to it? I think not.

Cast : Piera Degli Esposti, Donatella Finocchino, Beppe Fiorello, Cala Marchese, Pino Micol, Valentina Giordanella, Martina Galletta, Alessio Vassallo, Tony Palazzo, Gabriella Saitta, Lucia Sardo

Synobsis : Manuela (Carla Marchese) is a 13 year old teenager living with her mother Rita (Donnatella Finocchino) and her drug taking/dealing sister (Valentina Giordanella) together with her on/off  father (Beppe Fiorello) who has left the family home after a heated debate about lack of food and money, making this a strong female household. Librino, very much an ordernary crime ridden spot, depressing and with little going for it untill the day a larger than life statue is delivered of the Madonna. While some teenagers are playing football in front of the Madonna they score a goal by hitting her head with the ball, bringing it crashing to the ground, they quickly hide the evidence in an old lock-up.

Manuela has a dream during a hot Sicilian night, where the Madonna speaks to her concerning her missing head and its whereabouts. Manuela becomes the talk of the town, and her mother and the priest are quick off the mark, setting up business, big business. Where there’s a Madonna crying, laughing or simply speaking to teenagers, there are big bucks to be made in Italy. Manuela sees her life change from cleaning in a surreal hair salon to full-time employment working shifts listening to people’s problems, grievances and their wish lists, one lady speaking on behalf of her boyfriend “I wish the Madonna would find a job for my boyfriend in a supermarket, doing the shift from 3 pm to 8pm ” Manuela is making big bucks for her mother and the church by heading the “Factory of Hope” team. The scene where the priest sorts though her wardrobe is hilarious turning this colourful teenager into a drap Saint, untill one day…….. Torre has left the ending up to the viewer, you belive or you don’t the ending will be based on your religious beliefs.


Notizie degli scavi, News of the excavations (Possible English Title)

by Marianne Wi

Nothing in the title prepares you for this wonderful dialogue driven film, the synopsis given by could put you of all together. Man living in a brothel doing odd jobs, goes to a hospital visiting a prostitute, who has one failed suicide behind her. It was with some trepidation that I walked down the virtual red carpet, settling in row A 14 with my equally virtual lightly salted popcorn.

Director:  Emidio Greco, this 72 year old director has in the past won the prestigious Nastro d’argento for Best Screenplay in 1991 with “Una storia simplice”, “A Simple Story”. Greco directed and wrote the screenplay for “L’uomo privato” in 2007 however it never made the International market. I have very high hopes for  Notizie degli scavi, News of the Excavations  it is certainly one of my favorite Italian films seen in 2011.

Cast : Giuseppe Battiston, Ambra Angiolini, Iaia Forte, Giorgia Salari, Anna Paola Vellaccio, Francesca Fava

Synobsis : The Professor (Giuseppe Battiston) is working  as a live-in handyman in a brothel, sleeping on a foldout bed in the kitchen, he is not the sharpest tool in the box, there are psychological issues and his interpersonal skills are lacking, he wears white socks and brown sandals, nuf said. The Professor receives a call from a friend at another brothel asking him to visit The Marquise (Ambra Angiolini) in hospital telling her not to come back once released. The Marquise is recovering from a failed suicide attempt and had previously worked in The Professors current workplace, we follow a budding friendship between two fragile lonely people. The scene between The Professor and The Marquise on the hospital bed, when she ask him to visit again and his realisation that she actually wants him for himself, not because she has an errand for him to run is emotional and heartwarming. Battiston is simply awesome throughout and should be nominated for another David di Donatello next year, in fact he deserves a better award he really is in a class of his own, Ambra Angiolini’s portrayal of The Marquise was marvelous too. The scenes shot in Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli are stunning, excellent cinematography and music makes great viewing. I loved this beautiful understated film that is Notizie degli scavi, News of the Excavations Italian cinema at its best.
08.06.2011 Update
So very pleased to hear that this film is being released back into the Italian Cinemas again, 26 copies to be exact. Whoop Whoop, it is a film not to be missed and it is beginning to win awards. 

Il sesso aggiunto, Sex Added (Possible English Title)

by Marianne Wi

Director: This is Francesco Antonio Castaldo’s first feature, there is little to no information about him on the web right now except for his age 53 and the fact that he has two teenage children. Castaldo has now found the courage and money to direct this film based on his own experiences as a 25 year old, when he shared a flat with friends and a heroine addicted girlfriend. This film is not just about drugs it is a love story set in a 70s addicted ambience, less squalid than I would have expected, yes Alan steals from his mother, put his fist through her kitchen cupboard, has anger issues, has sex with a male drug dealer in exchange for drugs (a scene that will upset the good folk of Italy, already upset by an IKEA advert showing two men holding hands) he steals and he cheats too however on the whole this is about middle class addiction not dirty mattresses in dark drug dens. The casting of Giuseppe Zeno by Rita Forzano was an error that ruined the film for me, Zeno is a 35 year old actor cast in the role of Alan who must be early to mid 20s, he looks a very handsome 35 plus, making him too old next to his father and certainly much to old next to his little football playing brother, I originally thought his brother was his young son taken away from him due to addiction; another film perhaps?. The music was excellent as can be expected from Nicola Piovani, he wrote the score and won an Oscar for the music to La vita e bella, Life is beautiful directed by Roberto Benigni. The cinematography was great, the story solid, generally a good watch.

Cast: Giuseppe Zeno, Myriam Catania, Valentina D’Agostino, Cloris Brosca, Lino Guanciale, Gigi Savoia, Vlaerio Miduri

Synobsis: Alan (Giuseppe Zeno) is a drug addict who lives for his next fix, very much at the mercy of his own fragility, we follow him and his girlfriend Laura (Valentina D’Agostino) in a world of dependency and adiction, their daily routine, it is not just about drugs this is also a love story. We watch Alan’s relationship with a father (Gigi Savoia) who totally rejects him, Alan’s longing for contact with him is touching. We watch too the abusive relationship he has with his mother (Cloris Brosca) who by giving him cash to buy drugs “It will make you feel better” aids and abets his dependency, the relationship with drug dealers and close friends are all well told. Alan goes down the path of self-psychoanalysis trying to find himself, God, Love anything that will allow him to leave the dependency behind. A warning as Castaldo mentioned in an interview to young people about the dangers and sad life of any dependency.


This must be the place , Questo deve essere il posto

by Marianne Wi

”This must be the place”, “Questo deve essere il posto” directed by Paolo Sorrentino will be in competition at this years Cannes Film Festival, running from the 11th May until the 22 of May 2011, it is not due for release in Italy before October 2011 grrr grrrr.

Director : Paolo Sorrentino’s fame goes before him, he is recognised worldwide, many of his films have been distributed independently abroad as well as appearing at many of the biggest International Film Festivals. His greatest success was without doubt Il Divo 2008 however L’amico di familia, The Family Friend 2006 –  Le conseguenze dell’amore, The Consequences of Love 2001 –  and L’uomo in piu, One Man Up 2001 also did very well on the International market. I understand that Sean Penn met up with Paolo Sorrentino during the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, where he impressed the director so much that he returned to Italy and asked David Bryne to sort out a screenplay and  there you have it a film was born.

Cast : Sean Penn, Eve Hewson. Frances MaDormand, Judd Hirsch, Heinz Lieven, Kerry Conden, Olwen Fouere, Simon Delaney, Hoyce Van Pattern, Liron Levo

Synobsis : In short the film is about a bored retired rock star living in Ireland, who has not had contact with his father for over 30 years and therefore decides to hit on New York hoping for a reconciliation, before the father passes away, Cheyenne (Sean Penn) arrives too late. It is only after the father death that Cheyenne fully understands his fathers humiliation and horrendous treatment during his stay in Auschwitz, metered out by SS Officer Aloise Lange an unpleasent fellow, who was the fathers tormentor during the 2nd world war. Cheyenne is taken on a long a painful journey across the USA together with an equally painful journey of self discovery. Cheyenne has when he reaches his goal a big decision to make, will he be man enough ?


Goodbye Mama, Farewell Mom

by Marianne Wi

Director : Michelle Bonev was born in Bulgaria on the 1st October 1971, after a poor and tough childhood she made her way to Italy, where she has been working as a bit part actress, screenwriter, entrepreneur. Bonev has appeared in small roles in a number of films and mini series for TV, The Passion of Christ directed by Mell Gibson in 2004 being the most famous. This is her first feature film  as a director and is a production funded in theory by Bulgaria and Italy…… CONTROVERSY is the word best describing everything about this film.

Goodbye Mama, Farewell Mom was first mentioned at the Venice Film Festival 2010, where Bonev received the prestigious and much sought after “Action for Woman ” award…….an award dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. No me neither and as it turned out it was fabricated especially for Bonev after pressure was brought to bear on the Festival Organisers by non other than the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Minister of Cultural sidekick Sando Bondi, cannot wait to see who will be the lucky recipient at this years award ceremony, let’s rejoice while we can in the fact that at least Bonev is not a minor.

The controversy does not stop there, the Bulgarian Film Institute has been up in arms over the funding of this film, it would appear that BGN 300,000 was handed over by the already stretched Institute before a script had been produced and the rumored sale of the film to RAI for 1 EURO has not helped matters. Alexander Donev, who was head of the National Film Institute has resigned his position together with the Deputy Cultural Minister Dimitar Derelviev, they took a 40 strong delegation to Venice to oversee the award ceremony, it has been confirmed recently by Bonev that she herself footed the entire bill amounting to 3 million euros, as she wanted her proud countrymen at the festivities. I think you will agree this is a “LADY” with connections. Enough controversy I hear you say? No, there is more, Bonev claim this is an autobiographical film based on her family, something they are strongly disputing back home in Bulgaria stating that it is pure nonsense.

See Trailer

Cast : Michelle Bonev, Tatyana Lolova, Licia Nunez, Nadia Konakchieva, Marta Yaneva, Julian Vergov, Vesselina Panova, Maria Giuseppe Corasaniti, Petia Silianova, Ilka Zafirova, Neither Bakalowa, Vyara Kolarova

Synobisi : A family drama involving a mother, two daughters and a grandmother with Alzheimer, we follow this small group over four decades starting in the cold winter of 2005 in Bulgaria. We are introduced to Teodora (Nadia Konakchieva) who has been asked to go and pay a visit on her grandmother (Tatyana Lolova) who it is discovered is being ill-treated in a Bulgarian home for the elderly. Jana (Michelle Bonev) has abandoned her mother in an institution, that would appear after some research on the internet to be less than ideal for healing, as no one seem to leave the place alive. Jana is after her mother’s property and is seeking revenge for past mistakes made by her, a rescue operation is mounted led by Elena (Marta Yaneva) with the help of a Lawyer called Virginia (Licia Nunez) and Teodora .

SPOILER ALERT : In the final scene it is indicated that Elena (Marta Yaneva) is Bonev herself, the savior of her little sister and now also the grandmothers heroine. The 3 ladies I sat next to in the cinema missed this final information all together. It is interesting to note that both Bonev and Nunez have used the same inexperienced plastic surgeon and Botox  injector, no expressions were detected on either actresses during the entire film. Not actually that bad a film as such, a great story line although moving backwards and forwards between the years became tiresome, it was well shot, and without Boven whose skills as an actress are non-existent, painful and toe curling to watch, it would have been so much more enjoyable. The grandmother played by Tatyana Lolova was truly awesome a great performance and should be up for Best Supporting Actress at the David di Donatello awards.


La fine è il mio inizio, The End Is My Beginning

by Marianne Wi


My favourite film this year, the story of the Italian journalist and writer Tiziano Terzani. Born in Florence in 1938 he went on to study at Pisa University and eventually focused his journalistic skills on Eastern Asia. Terzani is one of the few journalist to cover both the fall of Saigon to the Vietcong’s and Phnom Pehn to the Khmer Rouge in the mid 70s. Terzani coverage of the Khmer Rouge, neglecting to report on the atrocities for ideological reasons, when he was a correspondent in Cambodia coursed much controversy in Italy and although he many years later apologised,  he was never forgiven.

Terzani published many books about his life in Asia, working as a journalist and is published in many languages all over the world.  The months prior to his death in Orsigna, Tuscany from stomach cancer in 2004 was spent with his son Folco, who recorded all their conversations, later to  produce a book from the transcript in 2006. I so wish I had spent some time with my own father before his death, so many unanswered questions, information lost in history never to be recovered.

Jo Baiers decision not to have flashbacks during the film showing only father and son interacting, often walking in the Tuscan countryside was bold indeed; two men talking for 98 minutes could easily have equalled disaster.

Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best know for his part in Pane e tulipani, Bread and Tulips directed by Silvio Soldini – La banda Baader Meinhoff, The Baader Meinhof Complex directed by Uli Edel and The Reader directed by Stephen Daldry was brilliant and should win awards, Graz’s best performance to date, they also look uncannily similar. Elio Germano playing the part of Folco, just keeps getting better with every film. We are treated to Tuscany at its best with excellent cinematography, if you can decide where you want to die, surely this is the place.


Director : Jo Baier, is a German director best known in her native country for her TV work, should be winning awards for this film or there is no justice.

Cast : Bruno Ganz, Elio Germano, Erika Pluhar, Andrea Osvalt, Nicolo Fitz-William Lay

Synobsis :  We follow the last months of  Tiziano Terzani’s life in conversation with his son who has returned from the US to be with his father. They take walks in the panoramicly beautiful Tuscany and Tiziano Terzani speaks of his life experiences in Asia, the first meeting with his wife together with his imminent death from stomach cancer. His wife always supporting in the background is played by Erika Pluhar, the last supper; a final family dinner, attended by his daughter and her family is touching never macabre. Terzani’s death is expected and planned, his final resting place would be mine, a stunning final shot.

Tiziano Terzan his last apperance :

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