It’s not often that you watch an old movie again and it lives up to your memories of it. However, Matrimonio all’italiana (1964) directed by Vittorio De SIca and based on Eduardo De Filippo’s play Filumena Marturano is a real gem. It features great performances by its stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni who not only could really act but were both incredibly good-looking! The plot could only be Italian – in fact, Neapolitan – and notwithstanding its old-fashioned nature, it’s delightful but also highlights a certain culture and attitude of wartime and post-war Naples. A true pleasure to see again.
The Academy Awards are coming up and Paolo Sorrentino’s film La grande bellezza is in the running for the best foreign film award. Italian reviews were lukewarm while foreign ones were mostly positive. (Beppe Severgnini recently wrote an article about this that appeared in the International New York Times.) It’s a lush, visually beautiful film, appropriately, as one of the themes is that Rome (and Italy by extension) is the great beauty and not much else. There are references to Italian cinema of the past, the most obvious of which, between the actors’ faces and the scenes of decadent lifestyles, is to Fellini’s La dolce vita. Many of the performances are wonderful – notably Toni Servillo as the protagonist Jep Gambardella. I didn’t love this movie: it’s perhaps too realistic a vision of Italy’s stasis and pretension to be anything other than profoundly depressing. However, since seeing it, I have found myself often referring to various of its scenes and themes, so, it’s obviously a film that makes one reflect and leaves a marked impression.
Cesare deve morire, directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, has been called a “docufiction” in Italy. It is set in Rome’s high-security Rebibbia prison and was filmed there. Most of the actors are actual inmates in the prison. It tells the story of a prison production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” from auditions to opening night. Other than the beginning and ending scenes of the opening of the play, the movie is in black and white. The film unfolds as the story of the work in progress. Some of the most affecting scenes are of the auditions, in which the inmate-actors are filmed in close-up. The roles are then assigned and each actor is asked to learn his lines and deliver them in his own dialect. Truth and reality mix with the play’s plot. It ends up making history and Shakespeare’s play very human. Even if you don’t like films of Shakespearean plays, this one is worth seeing.
The movie “To Rome With Love” is worth it if you want to hear some Italian and see some beautifully photographed Roman scenes. It does have some amusing parts. And Penelope Cruz is wonderful. Otherwise, it all feels very rushed and all in all it’s not great Woody Allen.