Back in February during Berlinale, at the very start of this strange yet fateful year, I watched Laura Bispurii’s ‘Daughter of Mine’ and fell back in love with Italian cinema. I was then satisfied further in Cannes, where I got to watch three more fantastic Italian films — which included Matteo Garrone’s ‘Dogman’ and Alice Rohrwacher’s ‘Happy as Lazzaro’. Then Venice rolled around and there was ‘What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?’ by Roberto Minervini and my personal, patriotic soul burst with pride.
Well, London audiences will soon be able to experience all of these titles in one place along with a selection that will include Laura Luchetti’s ‘Twin Flower’, Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Suspiria’ and Eduardo De Angelis’ ‘The Vice of Hope’. They are all part of the BFI’s London Film Festival Italian assortment of cinematic picks from our peninsula.
‘DAUGHTER OF MINE’ by Laura Bispuri
Back in Berlin, Bispuri’s film — which stars Valeria Golino and Alba Rohrwacher — enveloped me cinematically and I wrote: “I'll admit that I find Alba Rohrwacher the most exciting Italian actress of our times. Apart from a shared common background -- her mother is Italian, her dad German and she was also born in Florence -- I find Rohrwacher's professional choices courageous and wildly passionate. In fact, she is the antithesis of the typical Italian actress, all plumped and redone, performing the average Italian roles offered to her — probably because she herself is not your typical Italian woman. In fact, I dare say, Alba Rohrwacher is not your typical anything. She is fantastically different and perfectly unconventional.
That said, in Laura Bispuri's latest 'Figlia Mia', which in English seamlessly becomes 'Daughter of Mine’ -- it's not often that translations work as well, but here it fits! -- Rohrwacher is paired with the sultry, throaty voiced Valeria Golino, and newcomer Sara Casu who plays little Vittoria, their contended child. Together they create a trio of wonder women to put all other super heroes to rest. Their vulnerabilities and imperfections are so candidly portrayed, and discreetly highlighted by their filmmaker, without judgement or criticism, that when their characters' inner strength and ability to cooperate are finally uncovered, I felt like clapping out loud.
And my instincts, my strong positive feelings about the film were only confirmed when I read some knee-jerk reaction by a male critic who is clearly not in touch with his inner female. Oh Laura Bispuri, how much I love thee! So far at Berlinale, I dare say 'Daughter of Mine' is my personal favorite.”
‘HAPPY AS LAZZARO’ by Alice Rohrwacher
To Rohrwacher’s film in Cannes, I dedicated an entire piece, an interview with Lazzaro himself, the young and wonderful Adriano Tardiolo. And I stand by these words, and the true feelings I felt as the film started: “In the midst of the screening of Alice Rohrwacher's latest 'Happy as Lazzaro' ('Lazzaro Felice') I was overcome by a nearly unbearable sense of pride at being Italian. It's something I've come across one or two times before and I believe it is due to this new wave of fellow compatriot filmmakers who have brought back the idea of magic to Italian cinema.”
‘DOGMAN’ by Matteo Garrone
Garrone, well you know by now how I feel about ‘Dogman’ the official Italian entry to the Foreign Language Oscar race. But in case you’ve missed me gushing about it, well, here is an interview with Matteo Garrone where he talked about his leading man Marcello Fonte and how integral he is to the success of the film.
Two words about ‘Dogman’? Here are my initial thoughts from Cannes: “The magic of Matteo Garrone's latest 'Dogman' lies in the Italian filmmaker's fantastical vision -- a creativity simply like no other in narrative cinema. There is something about how this Cannes Competition title was shot, almost surrealistic and old timey, and how the story has been told without compromise, that left me breathless.”
‘WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD’S ON FIRE?’ by Roberto Minervini
Last but not least of the films I have watched and loved by compatriots stands Minervini’s oeuvre, a masterful and deeply moving look at race in America, particularly in the deep south. I fell deeply in love with ‘What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?’ in Venice and really enjoyed talking to the filmmaker afterward. Read the full interview or just go by my words: “Of all the films we watched at this year's Venice Film Festival Roberto Minervini's was the most important.
For two very specific reasons. One, it's a documentary, and while many narrative films may have explained my own personal struggle as a modern woman in today's world, those fictional stories can be dismissed by their critics as simply made up. 'What You Gonna Do When the World's On Fire?' cannot, since it's real life, it's in your face and it's downright true.
Point number two follows closely my first point, in that while watching the press preview of Minervini's film, which premiered in Competition at the festival, I saw more of my colleagues shift in their seat and -- after what appeared like much inner debate and a prolonged anxiety -- leave the theater than ever before. The answer is not a reflection on the quality of 'What You Gonna Do...' which is visually stunning, features a terrific soundtrack and makes its two hours duration fly by in what seemed like fifteen minutes.
Rather, it's an indication of what seems to be the biggest problem in America at the moment -- our militantly liberal left. And, like anything American, it has contaminated the rest of the world.”
‘SUSPIRIA’ by Luca Guadagnino
Finally, I’ve yet to watch ‘Suspiria’ since Venice was too jam packed with titles and I was afraid of how Guagagnino’s film would beat the wind out of me and leave me gasping for air. I needed all the breath I could muster to get through all the titles I needed to watch this year. But I’ll admit I’m surprised that it’s yet remained unspoken how the film’s themes, reformatting and even the color choices of the filmmaker and his cast on screen and on the red carpet are an ode to the Osho cult. I mean, can anyone say Rajneesh and neo-sannyasins? It’s all there, on the big screen, in plain view. I would love to talk to Luca Guadagnino after watching his film.
I so wish I was in London this year for LFF so I could watch ‘Suspiria’… Oh well, another place, another time.
This year’s BFI London Film Festival runs from October 10th to the 21st, 2018.
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