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Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2006

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***Look below for Mini-Reviews of CRIME NOVEL and SACRED HEARTS***

My Best Enemy / Il mio migliore nemico
Carlo Verdone, 2006; 115 minutes
Wednesday, May 31: 1:30PM & 6:30PM; Sunday, June 4: 4:30PM

A comic triumph that showcases one of Italy’s most beloved cinematic treasures in top form as both actor and director, Carlo Verdone (Love Is Eternal While It Lasts) returns to OPEN ROADS with one of the biggest Italian hits of the year. Achille de Bellis (Verdone) is a man who seemingly has it all: a devoted wife, a great job, a beautiful home—the works. On the eve of celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary, Achille discovers that one of his employees has been stealing and quickly fires her. That’s when the trouble starts. Convinced that his mother has been unjustly punished, the anarchic Orfeo (Silvio Muccino) launches an all-out campaign to destroy Achille’s perfect world.

Quo Vadis, Baby?
Gabriele Salvatores, 2005; 98 minutes
Wednesday, May 31: 4:00PM & 9:15PM; Thursday, June 8: 1:00PM

A clever, classy crime thriller from Oscar-winning director Gabriele Salvatores (Mediterraneo), Quo Vadis, Baby? (which takes its title from a line of dialogue in Last Tango in Paris) follows Giorgia, a no-nonsense female private investigator (beautifully played by rock singer Angela Baraldi) who decides to re-open an investigation into her sister's suicide which took place 16 years earlier. Watching video diaries of her sister forces Giorgia to confront aspects of her own life she’s long avoided in this sophisticated and surprising film noir.

Crime Novel / Romanzo criminale
Michele Placido, 2005; 130 minutes
Thursday, June 1: 1:15PM & 6:00PM

A major critical and commercial hit in Italy, Michele Placido’s remarkable film, based on the novel by Giancarlo De Cataldo, offers a searing portrait of a dense network of hidden alliances and mutual interests that connects the criminal underworld, radical politics and the highest reaches of the Italian government. The screenwriting team of Stefano Rulli and Sandro Petraglia—responsible for the screenplay for the highly-acclaimed The Best of Youth—also worked on the script for Crime Novel, and their influence can be felt; the film offers the same rich counterpoint between dramatic action and actual historical events. The cast includes many of Italy’s finest actors such as Kim Rossi Stuart, Stefano Accorsi, Claudio Santamaria and Anna Mouglalis.

Mini-Review- A very absorbing and thrilling crime drama that’s not as powerful as The Godfather, which it closely resembles in style and plot. The screenplay by Stefano Rulli and Sandra Petraglia is rich in both character and plot development which keeps you engaged throughout its running time of 130 minutes. Each performance feels convincing without any performances that particularly stand out. At times, the plot feels confusing and tedious, but, fortunately, director Michele Placido maintains a fast pace with great cinematography along with a well-chosen, energetic soundtrack. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate.

The Passion of Joshua the Jew / La passione di Giosué l’ebreo
Pasquale Scimeca, 2005; 110 minutes
Thursday, June 1: 3:45 & 8:45PM; Sunday, June 4: 2:00PM

Set during Queen Isabel’s expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain in 1492, Pasquale Scimeca’s new film tells of a Jewish boy born into a climate of persecution who is predicted to become the new Messiah. Joshua and his family are exiled to Naples, then Sicily, where he eventually finds himself assuming the role of Jesus in the theatrical religious rituals of the casazza (a Catholic layperson’s chapel).

Sacred Heart / Cuore sacro
Ferzan Ozpetek, 2005, Italy; 117 minutes
Friday, June 2: 1:00PM & 6:15PM; Wednesday, June 7: 8:45PM

One of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful of the new generation of Italian filmmakers, Ferzan Ozpetek (Facing Windows) returns to OPEN ROADS with Sacred Heart, the story of Irene Ravelli (Barbora Borbulova, in a smashing, Donatello Award-winning performance), a successful but coldhearted businesswoman. Taking an afternoon off to explore one of her father’s properties, Irene discovers a secret room that her mother had used thirty years earlier. The discovery, and a chance encounter with a remarkable young girl, causes Irene to reflect on what’s missing from her own life.

Mini-Review- Barbora Borbulova gives a wonderful performance as Irene. However, the real surprise here is Camille Dugay Comencini who plays Benny, the young girl who develops a strange bond with Irene. Admittedly, some scenes feel a bit awkward and contrived, especially a subplot regarding a suicide. Writer/director Ferzan Ozpetek, whose last film was the haunting and moving Oscar-nominated film Facing Windows, includes a little mystery and suspense to the plot, but what really make the film interesting are the subtle references to religion—as well as a powerful, thought-provoking message about kindness and love. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: High.

Even Free Is OK / Anche libero va bene
Kim Rossi Stuart, 2006; 100 minutes
Friday, June 2: 3:30PM & 9PM; Thursday, June 8: 3:00PM

Recently premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, this first film by actor Kim Rossi Stuart (Crime Novel) explores the world of Tommi, an eleven-year old who lives with his father and sister. His mother has abandoned the family, but the three have been able to work out a livable arrangement. Then one day, without warning, Tommi’s mother, Stefania, returns home, threatening the fragile balance that defines his family life. Stuart shows tremendous confidence and an assured style as he guides his characters through this emotional minefield—each dialogue exchange, each gesture, has the potential to hold double meanings.

Fire at Me / Fuoco su di me
Lamberto Lambertini , 2005; 100 minutes
Saturday, June 3: 2PM; Wednesday, June 7: 4:15PM

Fusing the historical and the personal in a style reminiscent of the Taviani brothers, director Lamberto Lambertini chronicles the triumphs, the dreams and the tragic end of Gioacchino Murat, who ruled Naples on behalf of Napoleon. The film follows the relationship between Eugenio, a young idealist who returns to Naples after being wounded in battle, and his beloved grandfather, Prince Nicola (Omar Sharif, speaking his own Italian in one of his most superlative performances), a wise and disillusioned aristocrat who is writing a “Neapolitan Memoir”. While the dream of Gioacchino Murat dies tragically, and war overwhelms the country, the young Eugenio gradually and relentlessly rediscovers pride in his roots.

The Listening / In ascolto
Giacomo Martelli, 2006; 105 minutes
Saturday, June 3: 4:30PM; Tuesday, June 6: 1:30PM & 6:00PM

An American company, Wendell-Crenshaw Technologies, unveils its most recent creation: Echelon, a new system designed for the National Security Agency that allows for extraordinary tracking and recording capabilities. In Rome, a student, Francesca Savelli (Maya Sansa), inadvertently picks up a bag containing information about the new system. Convinced she’s part of a plot to steal the new technology, agents for Wendell-Crenshaw and the NSA try tracking her down as Francesca finds herself drawn into a labyrinthine world of international secrets and industrial espionage. A fresh take on a genre not seen often in Italian cinema, The Listening is also a film of contemporary resonance.

The Goodbye Kiss / Arrivederci amore, ciao
Michele Soavi, 2006; 107 minutes
Saturday, June 3: 6:45PM; Monday, June 5: 6:15PM; Wednesday, June 7: 2:00PM

A former assistant of Italian horror master Dario Argento, director Michele Soavi has a similarly visceral approach to storytelling; he draws us into the action, creating a palpable, physical sense of mounting danger. Years ago, Giorgio (Alessio Boni) was a political idealist who became involved with a bombing that killed an innocent passerby; now hiding out in Central America, he decides to return to Italy—but knows it will cost him. The “price,” it turns out, is performing favors for Anedda (Michele Placido), a special services agent who holds evidence against him. Desiring only of a normal life, Giorgio instead finds himself drawn into a vortex of violence, drug dealing, and easy but dirty money; rather than starting over, he finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the trap he thought he had escaped in this fast-paced, hot-blooded neo-noir.

La terra
Sergio Rubini, 2006; 112m
Sat June 3: 9:15; Wed June 7: 6:30

Years before, Luigi Di Santo (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) fled the oppressive, violent atmosphere of his hometown in Puglia, eventually becoming a successful philosophy professor in Milan. The sale of the family farm, however, brings him back home—and back into the crazed network of intrigues, and jealousies he thought he had long left behind. Sergio Rubini, (La Stazione, 1991) has created his finest work yet, an amazingly deft combination of family thriller and small-town comedy. As Luigi, Bentivoglio enjoys one of his finest roles. Rubini himself plays Tonino, the hot-headed local loan shark, who seems to be behind a plot to play Luigi’s brothers against each other. When Tonino is shot, suspicion falls on the brothers, and Luigi’s own investigation turns up a few more family skeletons than even he imagined were lurking about.

New Italian Shorts
Total running time: app. 100 minutes
Sunday, June 4: 6:45PM; Monday, June 5: 2:00PM

A new feature of OPEN ROADS this year is this program featuring some of the finest recent short films—an ideal way to discover some exciting new talents and also to see the latest by animation master Bruno Bozzetto. The program includes:

Buongiorno, Melo Prino, 2005
The Shoe / La Scarpa, Andrea Rovetta, 2005
I’ll Tell You a Story /Ti racconto una storia, Manuela Mancini, 2005
Aria, Claudio Noce, 2005
Under the Leaves / Sotto le foglie, Stefano Chiodini, 2006
Saint’s Day / Il Giorno del Santo, Gianluca & Massimiliano De Serio, 2005
Wrestling / Lotto Libera, Stefano Viali, 2005
Looo, Bruno Bozzetto, 2005

Mater Natura
Massimo Andrei, 2005; 93 minutes
Sunday, June 4: 9:15PM; Tuesday, June 6: 3:45PM

Winner of the 2005 Critics’ Week at the Venice Film Fetival, Massimo Andrei’s makes exceptional use of its Neapolitan locations in this impressive debut feature, a very contemporary tale of love and loss. Desidero, a post-op transsexual who after years of living a wild life, has decided to settle down; in love with the handsome Andrea, a car wash owner, she imagines a relatively tranquil domestic life for her future. But Andrea has a secret, and her name is Maria. Eschewing easy camp, Andrei focuses on the complex emotional entanglements of his characters, detailing the long process by which they must come to terms with each other and themselves.

The Wind Blows Around / E il vento fa il suo giro
< Giorgio Diritti, 2005; 110 minutes
Monday, June 5: 4:00 & 8:30PM

A wonderfully fresh, touching film, The Wind Blows Around is a direct descendant of the great Italian realist tradition. Philippe Héraud is a French shepherd and cheese-maker who moves into a remote village with his family and small herd of goats. At first his new neighbors welcome him, somewhat bemused that anyone would move into such a lonely mountain patch written off by most outsiders. Yet soon his presence comes to be seen as an imposition, and even a threat to the only way of life they’ve known. The film powerfully captures the sense of extraordinary remoteness of this Italian Alpine village; the inhabitants of the village even speak their own dialect, a form of Occitano, a mixture of French and Italian, that only a few thousand Europeans actively speak today.

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