Segundo de Chomón & Giovanni Pastrone – La guerra ed il sogno di Momi (1917)

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Little Momi’s father has left to be a soldier and his letters are eagerly anticipated by his family at home. In one of them he recounts the adventure of little highlander Berto, who saved his mother from an attack by the Austrians by running to warn the Italian troops. Momi is impressed by the tale and falls asleep on the sofa, hugging his favourite toys, agile Trick and violent Track; as soon as the child is sleeping Trick, Track and their troops unleash a battle with a vengeance, featuring heavy artillery, chemical weapons and air attacks. Finally, in the vehemence of their clash, Momi is involved as well and prodded with bayonets. Nevertheless… it is only a rose thorn and the battle was only a dream. Momi confidently keeps looking forward to the return of his father from the front, together with his mother and grandfather. This masterpiece by the wizard of “special effects” Segundo de Chomón is a war story, divided into a first live-action part and a second animated one in stop-motion, with a skill that still leaves one gaping even today. Visual inventions and sophisticated technical solutions follow each other: from the bellows sucking in the fumes of the chemical attack to the soda bottle used to extinguish fires in the city of Lilliput after the air incursion. Continue reading

Miklós Jancsó – La pacifista – Smetti di piovere AKA The Pacifist (1970)

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This highly symbolic and enigmatic political drama by Hungarian director Miklos Jancso was produced by a consortium from Italy, France and West Germany. This film is considered to be an homage to Antonioni as it uses his favorite leading actress (Monica Vitti) and his cameraman Carlo di Palma. This film was made during a time when Jancso was not allowed to make films in his native Hungary. In the middle of the crowd, while covering an Italian political protest by leftists, The Journalist (Monica Vitti), a pacifist, finds herself surrounded by a quite different group of people who jostle her, remove her recording equipment from her and set her car on fire. She complains to the police about this. However, when the police bring one of the young men before her for her to identify him, she says he is not one of her attackers. This leads to her having a romantic relationship with the young man. The group, and the young man, are young Italian neo-fascists, and the young man has been given the job of assassinating a leftist. He is too gentle to do this, and his group kills him right before The Journalist’s eyes. She goes to the police again, but they begin to believe that she is insane, even when she is forced to kill her boyfriend’s assailants right there in the police station. Continue reading

Ferzan Ozpetek – Le fate ignoranti AKA His Secret Life (2001)

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When Antonia’s husband Massimo is killed in a car accident, she accidentally discovers that he has been having a same-sex affair with a produce wholesaler named Michele. Although she’s initially devastated by the news and hostile toward Michele, she soon develops a friendship with him and his and Massimo’s circle of gay, transgender, and straight friends, among whom are a Turkish immigrant, a playwright and a boutique owner. As she gets to know these people and become a part of their lives, the new relationships dramatically transform Antonia. Continue reading

Piero Vivarelli – Satanik (1968)

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Synopsis
A withered old hag turns into a beautiful young woman after drinking a youth formula.

Review (thanks to k_t_t2001@ imdb)
A faithful adaptation of the fumetti neri
The level of success of SATANIK as a film is entirely dependant upon the audience viewing it. An audience expecting something along the lines of OPERAZIONE PAURA or CASTLE OF BLOOD will be disappointed. This isn’t a horror film. Even an audience expecting a giallo in the Argento / Fulci tradition is bound to be dissatisfied by the lack of creative violence and relatively mild gore. In 1968 the target audience for this film were the readers of the hugely successful fumetti neri that had already led to popular cinematic spin-offs of DIABOLIK and KRIMINAL. When viewed in this light, SATANIK becomes a much more successful, though no better, film. Continue reading

Roberto Rossellini – Viaggio in Italia AKA Journey to Italy [+ Extras] (1954)

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Among the most influential films of the postwar era, Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy (Viaggio in Italia) charts the declining marriage of a couple from England (Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders) on a trip in the countryside near Naples. More than just the anatomy of a relationship, Rossellini’s masterpiece is a heartrending work of emotion and spirituality. Considered a predecessor to the existentialist works of Michelangelo Antonioni and hailed as a groundbreaking modernist work by the legendary film journal Cahiers du cinéma, Journey to Italy is a breathtaking cinematic benchmark. Continue reading

Marco Bellocchio – Fai bei sogni AKA Sweet Dreams (2016)

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With the innocuously titled Sweet Dreams (Fai bei sogni), Italian director Marco Bellocchio stages a gentle, eminently watchable return to some of the key themes that have haunted his 50 years of filmmaking, particularly the scarring left by a dysfunctional family and maternal love gone awry. The story of a 9-year-old boy who loses his beloved mother is a much simpler, more direct film than the thematically rich My Mother’s Smile (2002), and has none of the churning family anger of Fists in His Pocket (1965). But based on journalist Massimo Gramellini’s best-selling autobiographical novel, it has an emotional unity and urgency that holds the attention, only flagging in the last innings of a surprisingly compact drama running well over two hours. Continue reading