Gianfranco Rosi – Fuocoammare (2016)

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Storyline
Situated some 200km off Italy’s southern coast, Lampedusa has hit world headlines in recent years as the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants hoping to make a new life in Europe. Rosi spent months living on the Mediterranean island, capturing its history, culture and the current everyday reality of its 6,000-strong local population as hundreds of migrants land on its shores on a weekly basis. The resulting documentary focuses on 12-year-old Samuele, a local boy who loves to hunt with his slingshot and spend time on land even though he hails from a culture steeped in the sea. Continue reading

Mauro Bolognini – Per le antiche scale AKA Down the Ancient Stairs (1975)

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A mental hospital somewhere in Tuscany during the thirties. Far away from fascism, this closed world is ruled over by Dr. Bonaccorsi, a passionate and benevolent psychiatrist whose dream is to isolate the germ of madness. He’s also a very active womanizer and three women benefit from his sexual itch: Francesca, the hospital manager’s wife, Bianca, his devoted nurse and Carla, the nymphomaniac wife of a doctor. His well-ordered universe starts to be challenged with the coming of Anna, a trainee psychiatrist, who disapproves of his theory on the origin of madness. Worse, she resists his advances. Since Bonaccorsi is more insecure than he looks, what will become of him? Continue reading

Elio Petri – La classe operaia va in paradiso AKA The Working Class Goes to Heaven (1971)

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“Lulu the Tool” is no more descriptive a title for Elio Petri’s Italian social drama that opened yesterday at the D. W. Griffith Cinema than “La Classe Operaia Va in Paradiso” (“The Working Class Goes to Heaven”), the title under which it shared (with “The Mattei Affair”) the grand prize of the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. But if neither tag is memorable, there is little doubt that the director-writer, whose convictions are Communist, has projected a cynical view of the worker’s lot that is both fascinating and sobering.

Mr. Petri, who scored with his 1970 dissection of police authority in “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion,” has again joined Ugo Pirro in writing the script. With Gian Maria Volonte, the top cop in “Investigation,” he points up the Kafkalike condition of “Lulu.” Continue reading

Alessio Rigo de Righi & Matteo Zoppis – Il solengo (2015)

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Synopsis:
Winner of DocLisboa’s 2015 Best International Film Award, Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis’s documentary explores the life of Mario de Marcella, a man who lived alone in a cave for over 60 years, nicknamed “Il Solengo” (the lone boar that’s been cut off from his pack). No one knows for certain why he decided to become a hermit. Still, hunters from his home village (who would occasionally encounter him in the wilderness) offer conflicting reasons about his solitude through elaborate stories. The negative space created by his absence is filled with gorgeous imagery of the Italian countryside. Continue reading

Roberto Rossellini – Era notte a Roma AKA It Was Night in Rome [Long ver.] (1960)

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In keeping with his previous film Il generale Della Rovere, filmmaker Roberto Rossellini pursues a wartime theme in this “personal epic” Era notte a Roma.
The film is set in Rome during the German occupation after the armistice on 8 September 1943.
The story concerns three Allied POWS, who escape from their camp and hide out in Rome. The trio is given shelter and aid by a beautiful young woman who deals with black market disguised as a nun, her partisan boyfriend and several other people.
The three prisoners (one is Russian, one English, one American) display a genuine warmth towards each other that probably is meant to reflect the three countries’ joint effort against Nazi Germany.
Just as the variety of Italians involved in their protection as well as in their pursuit seems to be meant to reflect the chaos and mistrust reigning in those dark days. Acts of courage alternate with acts of treachery.
For reasons that remain obscure, Era Notte a Roma was never initially given a widespread American release. Continue reading

Francesco Rosi – Tre fratelli AKA Three Brothers (1981)

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Three Brothers opens to an oddly sterile medium shot of a building wall (made even colder and more impersonal by the black and white photography) as the amplified sound of a heartbeat discordantly accompanies an elegiac melody, before a jarring chromatic shift focuses the camera in extreme close-up at the center of a littered, derelict vacant lot amid a pack of rats scavenging for food. The strangely primal image serves to wake the pensive and introverted Rocco (Vittorio Mezzogiorno) from his discomforting sleep, who then subsequently opens his door to reveal the bustling sight of rambunctious, troubled adolescents in their sleeping quarters at a juvenile reformatory facility in Naples. An early morning visit from the local police seemingly reinforces his own sense of crisis over the efficacy of his selfless efforts to rescue the children entrusted to his care as their investigation into a series of petty thefts has been traced back to several unidentified young delinquents who have devised a means to scale the walls of the institute at night to sneak into town, then return to the facility unobserved by morning, and have asked Rocco for his assistance in identifying the perpetrators. The theme of protective and isolating walls carries through to the image of Rocco’s elderly father Donato (Charles Vanel) as he leaves the gates of his remote mountainside villa in southern Italy and, while walking through an open field, has a surreal encounter with his wife Catalina as she attempts to recapture an errant rabbit that had escaped from the kitchen. Continue reading

Jonas Carpignano – Mediterranea (2015)

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Jacques Audiard’s decent Dheepan may have won the top prize at Cannes, but another drama about the experience of illegal immigrants in Europe deserves its fair share of the limelight. Screened in the festival’s Critics’ Week, Jonas Carpignano’s debut feature Mediterranea follows a Burkina Faso man as he takes a treacherous land and sea journey, then gets a foothold in Calabria, Italy. With an intimate naturalism that at times evokes a tag-along documentary, Carpignano’s matter-of-fact approach, leavened with the humor of engaging side characters, produces the ring of truth without strain. Continue reading