Tag Archives: Italy

When Fashion Becomes a symbol for the irresistible feminine to Manifest itself: a (Humble) attempt to understand Luca Guadaguino’s THE STAGGERING GIRL

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One of the reasons I love the short form is that it allows for a director or writer to paint scenes that don’t aim to expound on a topic In a detailed, didactic manner, but instead prefer to dispense enough information to allow you, the viewer, to still follow a (somewhat cohesive) story, a character’s journey, and arrive with that character to a moment of recognition. It doesn’t have to satisfy as a whole, but it should make one feel as though one saw an experiment, a dream, perhaps time blended into and outside of itself.

Guadagnino, the Call Me By Your Name director, teams up with fashion designer Valentino to use the famed designer’s 2018/2019 collection of sumptuous, dreamy gowns as a motif for memory, loss, and the reconciliation with a woman’s inner goddess. He focuses on two opposing characters linked by a fragile whiff of sensuality that comes in the form of a stranger’s confession overheard through the thin walls of a New York apartment. Francesca Moretti (Julianne Moore) becomes the witness to this confession in which she eavesdrops on a woman (played by Kiki Layne) telling a story to an unseen (listener? therapist?) person. Disturbed, perhaps haunted by this confession as it stirs images of a large blue and red fabric she wore once as a girl, a fabric that becomes almost a character in itself, Francesca starts her own voyage of exploration.

That voyage lands her in Italy, where her ailing mother, renowned artist Sophia Moretti (Marthe Keller) lives. Sophia has been having eyesight problems and is at an age where she cannot oversee the house where she basically grew into, and created roots. The mother/daughter reunion is prickly at best with references to Ingmar Bergman’s homework help hemispheres globe follow url buy cheap viagra australia https://rainierfruit.com/viagra-slc-utah/ bullying argumentative essay viagra pills at three dollars per pill buy annotated bibliography where can i buy levitra http://mcorchestra.org/3290-example-of-a-lab-report-for-chemistry/ go to link writing mission statements essays on corporate governance issues in china https://healthimperatives.org/rxstore/viagra-nebo-cialis/71/ cheap essay editor site for mba new york masters creative writing sport essay sample source link top biography writers site us how to write a business plan pdf enter go buy custom college essays best writing paper for fountain pens topics for a persuasive essay in high school how to use vega 100 tablets essay writing competitions online cialis online canada buy viagra online pharmacy australia viagra commercial disclaimer essay on photographer viagra copay http://teacherswithoutborders.org/teach/phd-thesis-in-financev/21/ Autumn Sonata or Almodovar’s High Heels. Francesca feels Sophia should move into a smaller location, or (unstated but inferred) an older person’s home, or to New York with her. She could still paint as much as she’d like. Nothing, other than location, would change.

But what is a person, if not the location, the place where they grew up in? I consider myself a staunch New Yorker, born and raised, and of course the opening scene in which we see Moore judiciously cast as Francesca, clad in black, making her way across the Upper East Side neighborhood where she lives, gave me an immediate sense of memory, identity, down to her small, spartan apartment that has next to no decor, no signs of renovation, and incredibly for 2020, a beige rotary phone. Just seeing this short opening scene in which Francesca both grapples with a husband (voiced by Kyle McLachlan) who wants her back and the aforementioned stranger whose voice seeps through the walls of her old apartment, gave me a sense of familiarity.

Then we have Sophia, tied as she is to her own surroundings. Guadagnino never explicitly resolves the budding drama if Sophia manages to remain in Italy, but when we hear her plead, “But this is my home!”, the emotions hit hard because we infer she will not remain there. It would be difficult for someone like Sophia, with her failing eyesight, to adapt to a new location. The house used for Sophia’s home, as old as it looks, surrounded by lush vegetation and fountains, is her place, for better or worse.

But what if all this push and pull is merely a MacGuffin? I kept wondering about this after a second, then a third viewing.

Throughout the short movie, Francesca as been unable to write her memoirs. Her memories of her father, her lover, and the man who takes care of Sophia seem to have become a blur who comes in the form of Kyle McLachlan. In every case, this male figure departs, and only one, Bruno, the man who selflessly (and with hints of unrequited love) takes care of Sophia, remarks, upon discussing Sophia’s paintings of swans which have become abstractions, “I suppose this is the journey we are all on, from the literal to the abstract.” In a way, Francesca has become just as blind as her mother. This is why “everything seems so different!” when she arrives to her mother’s home, why she can’t quite connect with herself. And it’s the sole reason why, that omnipresent cape will become the symbol that will link Francesca to her own goddess-self.

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This is the kind of film that could pass as too artsy for its own good. You have a blatant Woody Allen homage in the opening titles and an entire scene almost lifted verbatim from Allen’s Another Woman. The plot is maddeningly confusing and requires at least a second viewing, but perhaps that is Guadagnino’s intention. One view is not enough to appreciate the density and depth of the story that seems both a sketch and a fully finished work of art flanked by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s stirring, transcendent score. I’m one of these people that don’t need everything to explained to me in bullet points. To watch The Staggering Girl was both a challenge for me to interpret it to the best of my ability, or to take it as it is, and leave it at that without too much analysis (and that’s also, not including spoilers). However, haunted I was by these dreamy images of Kiki Layne pouring her heart out and being almost a ghost, or Mia Goth and the great Marthe Keller playing two different versions of themselves when Goth is British and Keller is German. Even more daring, to see Moore playing herself as a girl and practically making you believe it. I don’t think it all quite comes together as a whole, but that’s not the intention. Dreams are never complete, memory can be failing, but impressions of a life lived and enjoyed are timeless.

It is safe to say for me that The Staggering Girl, surrealist, ambitious, and one that also pays homage to womanhood in all its ages (especially in that soaring, ecstatic finale! The image of a warrior-like Marthe Keller, a vision in magenta and flowing, white hair, charging towards a group of women remains burned in my mind) will be studied and talked about. I’ve already been touched by its magic, it’s sheer canvas of emotion, of impressionist memory, and Julianne Moore sitting regally in her mother’s garden, joyously opening, giving in, and finally, celebrating the rediscovery of her own heart.

The Staggering Girl is available on MUBI, Amazon Prime Video, and iTunes.

55TH NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Italy / France / Brazil / USA
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Runtime: 132 minutes
Language: Italian / French / English / German
Mostlyindies.com grading: A+

There was a pregnant tension in the air inside the Alice Tully during the half-hour leading to the world premiere of Luca Guadagnino’s film version of Andre Aciman’s novel Call Me By Your Name — would it remain faithful to the novel, how would the performances be, and what about that famous scene with a fruit? Not having read the book or known what the plot was about other than the synopsis featured in the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s page and a little apprehensive after seeing Guadagnino’s awful 2015 film A Bigger Splash that made its rounds in US theaters last year, I figured I’d give it a try based solely on the trailer. When it comes to LGBT cinema, I’ll usually watch them all — the bad with the good — because hey, if one can’t support it, what’s the use in complaining there aren’t any stories being told? And considering that this year the New York Film Festival has not one but three in its Main Slate — the other two being the Norwegian Thelma and the French BPM as well as Todd Haynes new film Wonderstruck and a restored version of G W Pabst’s 1929 classic Pandora’s Box, there should be enough quality to glean a lot of positive chatter about the state of Queer Cinema yesterday and today.

Luca Guadagnino again returns to his native Italy to take us into a sensual trip through a lazy summer in 1983. Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet) lives with his parents, both intellectuals, in a secluded part of Italy and have a tradition (established by his father, a history professor (Michael Stuhlbarg in a role that anchors and elevates the film) of inviting a student over for mentoring. Elio doesn’t quite care for this since his privacy will be altered, and could you blame him? The look of disdain on his face as he and his girlfriend Marzia get their first glimpse of the impossibly beautiful Oliver (Armie Hammer) emerging from his parents vehicle says it all. Elio is frankly, not impressed one bit.

Not that Oliver makes it easy, either: a good ten years older than Elio there doesn’t seem to be much holding them together. Both are clearly sophisticated in their fields; Oliver in his knowledge of history and languages; Elio, in music. However, Oliver varies from being dismissive to vague, flighty interest, and any attempt at dialog ends with a sense of the both of them being completely incompatible. Conversations end in moments of awkwardness, and no one seems to know how to break the ice. A visual discovery that Oliver is also Jewish, while striking a spark, also fails to really make things work between them. All Elio can hope is that the six weeks that Oliver will be in Italy will go as quickly and painlessly as possible so life can return to normal.

It’s this tension between the two that carries the story to its conclusion; constantly framed together, it only seems logical that something has to give. A first attempt at physical contact during a volleyball game backfires. A night on the town, where both Elio and Oliver dance with women, also goes south. It’s precisely at the halfway mark when we realize not that Elio has been resenting Oliver’s presence, but that he’s attracted to him, and this being 1983, a crucial year for gay men as the Disco era had begun to feel its aftermaths and AIDS had made its way to the cover of Time magazine, such feelings were best kept in the quiet and resolved in the dark.

What makes Call Me By Your Name succeed is precisely this need for silencing: Elio obviously doesn’t need his parents to know yet, but Oliver suddenly becomes less a Greek God in the flesh and turns into a vulnerable young man who doesn’t wish to harm this boy who’s clearly growing up and has a world to learn. Perhaps, also, he has his own demons to wrestle with, and again, the timing of the story is crucial. Both begin a dance of wanting to be as close as possible to wanting to stay away from each other, a thing that leads Elio to experiment with Marzia and sadly, lead her on. In the meantime we’re left to wonder, how much do the parents know about what’s going on?

The only one who seems to hint at something is Mr Perlman (although a telling expression in Mrs Perlman answers the age-old question of “Does Mother know?”). There is a build up to a scene that happens in stages. Firstly, a gay couple appears, and Perlman wants Elio to at least try to behave with a certain tolerance not because they’re gay or ridiculous but because they’re “both.” It’s the film’s one self-hating moment, a subtle slap that strikes at the way gay men were still seen at the time — campy, effete, diva-worshiping, and overall, emasculated. This is followed by another scene in which Perlman goes on and on about the male form and how it was admired in Grecian times. It’s a very telling revelation. MIchael Stuhlbarg’s delivering of his lines reveal something completely startling about his until then very worldly, bourgeois professor. So disarming it is, that even Hammer’s Oliver gets taken aback and it hovers over the second half of the picture until Stuhlbarg, practically doing nothing other than sit with his son, has the most ideal,naked, and emotionally revealing conversation any father should have. Because of this, his is the character that stands out the most because of how it informs the viewer of where he comes from other than making him “the clueless father”. Anyone — me included — knows that parents always know, but to do what Perlman does during the film . . . priceless. An Oscar consideration for Best Supporting Actor could happen for him.

I dare anyone to view this movie and not reminisce about those days of experiencing first love and choke a little on tears. It is as nuanced and detailed a love story as a coming of age, beautifully rendered by everyone onscreen, meticulously acted to a point where one would be hard pressed not too see oneself in any of the two leads, or perhaps the father. Several 80s New Wave classics make their way into the film (notably The Psychedelic Furs’ Love My Way), but it’s Sufjyan Stevens ethereal music, reminiscent of the early 70s, that paints this film in smoldering passionate hues that will still evoke emotions well past the end credits. Guadagnino in my opinion has made the perfect gay romance.

Call Me By Your Name just had its screening at the 55th New York Film Festival and will make its US premiere November 24.






A BIGGER SPLASH

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

 

Reader, where do I begin? I’m still reeling over the sheer awfulness of Luca Guadagnino’s mediation on ex-lovers, gender politics, and something vaguely resembling a romance. Remember a little-known playwright called William Shakespeare? Him. Well, he basically wrote the book on partner-swapping in his comedies and did so much better. Even Woody Allen has managed to produce interesting reflections on the nature of relationships between men and women and the consequences they engender. This, on the other hand . . .

The trailer promises and delivers nothing that it winks at the audience it will deliver. From the opening shot of Tilda Swinton, a rock star reflecting on stage in what seems David Bowie drag, followed by her and Matthias Schoenaerts laying on the beach as they get a call from Ralph Fiennes who is popping for a visit (and you see a shadow of a plane about to land as to drive the point home), to an awkward sequence where the twosome get introduced to Fiennes’ daughter in the film played by Dakota Johnson, you get a general idea that perhaps this will be something screwball-ish, rather flighty, with misunderstandings left and right and perhaps a couple of sex scenes along the way for good measure. I mean, they are in a secluded Italian island in the middle of a vacation, might as well make the best of it and pretend nothing ever happened, right?

Wrong. From the moment Fiennes enters the picture, it’s as if he had in mind he had to ham it up to almost extreme lengths to make his older stud-character register. Reader, it’s painful. The harakiri would have been an act of mercy. Seeing Fiennes, still remarkably fit, make a fool of himself at every turn and inhabit a character who is deluded as to the extent he relates to the others is just torture. Consider it an act of an old peacock macho-ing it up in an extended mating dance that clearly provokes some quiet seething from Schoenaerts who takes a secondary seat and inexplicably allows Fiennes to take center stage as if it were better that way. Meanwhile, Swinton, who’s rock star persona in the movie is recovering from a throat operation, can’t speak but in whispers, and even that is an effort. All she can do is react in various degrees of passivity while both men circle each other, each trying to claim their ground, neither backing up.

And Dakota Johnson? She’s merely skin decoration. She gets in one or two lines pregnant with innuendo, but that’s all her character is: a tease. Guadagnino plays her like a card held very close to his chest, and some late-story revelations don’t really do much more than cement how unnecessary her character truly is to the story, but to supply a motive for a completely out of the blue catharsis that . . . well. You’d have to see this mess to see where I’m getting at.

A Bigger Splash boasts an inexplicable title that narrates a story that doesn’t seem to have any real direction other than to force some events to come together and perhaps shed light on the consequences of giving into temptation. I wish that somehow some narration choices would have been less indulgent. Guadagnino’s film had the potential to play with the original material it’s based on — Jacques Deray’s La Piscine. Tragically it all but dissipates any sense of tension in lieu of lingering shots of beach, scenery, food preparing, snakes, Fiennes diving into the pool, Fiennes dancing, Fiennes basically chewing sccenery, which makes this movie almost insufferable. At least Schoenaerts boasts some incredible pectorals. That at least prevented me from stabbing my eyes out.

Next!

 






L’ATTESA (THE WAIT)

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

 

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There is an undercurrent of similarities between Anne, the grieving mother in Piero Messina’s debut feature film L’Attesa (The Wait) and the grieving mother and widow she played a little under a quarter of a century ago in Krzystof Kieslowski’s Trois Couleurs: Bleu (Three Colors: Blue). Both women start off losing a loved one, but where Julie retreats into her inner world and virtually disappears into the streets of Paris only to find herself through her dead husband’s last musical composition for the Unification of Europe, Anne remains a mystery only unto herself and the loss that pains her. I’m perfectly okay with that–I tend to gravitate to stories where characters move within their own little psychodramas that may or not have a perfect resolution. However, L’Attesa suffers from too much pretension and too little substance and fails to bring any closure on any level, and that to me is a problem.

We know from the start that Anne has lost her son Giuseppe. We don’t know how, but that it seems, doesn’t matter. We next see his girlfriend Jeanne (Lou de Laage, previously seen on this side of the pond in the excellent movie Breathe [Respire], which debuted here at the 2015 Rendezvous with French Cinema) arriving for a visit. It seems Giuseppe had invited Jeanne to visit him at his mother’s house before the events that start the movie. When she arrives, she’s greeted with a silence that is frankly, unsettling — almost Gothic. It doesn’t help that the house is darker than the mansion in The Others save for some dim blue lights coming from the stained glass windows. It also doesn’t help that the hostess (Anne) is so out of sorts it’s a wonder she can even speak. That no one in the house informs Jeanne what has transpired is an oddity in itself, and makes me wonder, am I in the middle of a thriller? Is something else amiss that I’m going to eventually find out? Is Giuseppe a male version of Rochester’s wife, in Jane Eyre, locked in a dungeon or an attic and perhaps Anne is deranged? And if she is, what mess has Jeanne gotten herself into?

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No. L’Attesa plays its cards firmly against its chest and reveals rien. We are left with two women continuously circling each other, attempting to make conversation, observing, yet never totally giving in. Why Anne makes the choice she makes is beyond any comprehension unless there’s that “verbalizing would eventually make something unthinkable real”, but even then — it just strains credibility and turns a story that had enormous potential into images in chiaroscuro that really don’t amount to much. L’Attesa only saves itself from being a terrible mess by the performances of Juliette Binoche and Lou de Laage who foil each other perfectly. Other than that, it’s an okay debut for Piero Messina (who has worked as assistant director for Paolo Sorrentino and it shows), but not much else.






ON DVD: A BRIEF VACATION (1973)

Hooked on Film rating:

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

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People in Italian Neo-realism films don’t usually take vacations; they barely have any money to even get on by, and Vittorio De Sica’s next to last movie deviates only very slightly from his usual topic. While not as brutally draining of hope as his 1948 classic Bicycle Thieves (I Ladri di Bicicleta), and not quite as emotionally powerful as his 1970  The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini), A Brief Vacation is both a return to his his core topic, and a welcome departure as well.

The movie focuses on Clara Mataro (Florinda Bolkan), a woman working in a factory, providing for her disabled husband Renato. At the opening of this film, Clara is at her last rope. Nothing works properly in her house and on top of that she is expected to go to work under long commutes and still put food on her family’s plate. Things take a turn for the worse when she starts fainting at work; a visit to the doctor discloses that she has become tubercular and must cease work at once and get some much needed recovery.

This doesn’t bode well for her family, who view Clara as a money-making machine, and an exchange with a young man who is also at the doctors leads to accusations of infidelity bordering on spousal abuse from her husband. Still, against her husband’s wishes, she takes the decision and boards a train that takes her to the mountains of Italy far north to start a new chapter of mental and physical recovery.

Once there she befriends an interesting group of women: one, a famous singer (played by Adriana Asti) with an advanced stage of cancer who maintains a strong front while collapsing on the inside, a trophy wife (Teresa Gimpera), and a young woman who won’t eat. Clara, herself a victim of a hard life, slowly finds her footing in ways she could not have while living with her family. Somehow, these wounded women see a subtle strength that Clara herself probably didn’t know she possessed and come to depend on her for support when they themselves have to confront their inner pain.

1973 - Flo-Bol_ UnaBreveVacanza- 1973_V de_sica (13)

The one thing that lingers a tad plastic in the movie is that the young man she met at the doctor’s office also comes to visit for an indefinite stay. This seems a tad fabricated for the purpose of romantic drama, (and for some reason it made me think of how romance also happened to Cecilia, another lonely woman who escapes reality by via of a movie heartthrob in Woody Allen’s 1985 The Purple Rose of Cairo) However, this new man also works to Clara’s favor: she discovers passion, and with that, her own beauty. De Sica, however, doesn’t go the route of giving her a makeover, and Bolkan is marvelous in depicting the subtle nuances that she herself is perhaps more confident than she initially let on. Perhaps an actress with less presence may have required this treatment — typical of Hollywood — but Bolkan, it’s always there, flickering, like an inner light.

It’s because of this that Clara’s slow evolution from battered, sick housewife to a woman who is becoming more herself even when she may have to return home when her family comes to fetch for her, that one realizes just how strong and independent she really is. A Brief Vacation may not have all the answers into resolving her quandary as of what comes after recovery, but as a character study of a woman coming back from the edge of darkness, A Brief Vacation is a movie that while has its feet firmly entrenched in its Neo-realist roots also offers a core element: a glimmer of hope. You couldn’t ask for more evolution than that in a director.






ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME

Hooked on Film rating:

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

There comes a moment in many actors’ careers where they essentially stop reaching for that higher performance and basically go on autopilot, repeating down to the minimum gestures the One Character / Affectations that made them famous. Come to think of it, we can’t but not expect it from them. Dame Maggie Smith  arches her eyebrow and give you a well delivered line; Tom Cruise bares his chest and attempts to recreate his invulnerability in every single film he’s in. With Sarah Jessica Parker, an actress not known for her depth of performances but for an HBO series where she played a shoe-loving sex columnist who also, let’s face it, was kind of a social climber, this has become her Everest. It seems that from then on, every movie Parker does she runs the gamut of Carrie Bradshaw and Carrie Bradshaw, and in a way, that’s okay. It works for her. We actually like it that way.

In All Roads Lead to Rome, a title that telegraphs the entire plot and hopes you’re in for the madcap ride like it’s the very first time, Parker, playing a single mother variation of Bradshaw, takes to Italy with her problematic, pink-haired daughter Summer (because, why not?) to show her the countryside. Also, to steer her clear out of doing time for her boyfriend who’s been caught with several kilos of pot and will face jail time, but wants Summer to take the fall for him. What-a-keeper.

Mother and daughter haven’t arrived when complications ensue, and the movie tries to milk language barriers for comedic effect in ways that not only don’t work, but backfire when things really take a turn. Somehow, Maggie finds herself walking back into the life of a former beau Luca (are all Italian men named Luca??), who lives in Tuscany with his perpetually grumpy mother (played by Claudia Cardinale — yes, that Claudia Cardinale). Now, you would think that the movie would stop to admire the sheer scenery and at least have one slow scene of Getting to Know You and establish character motivations, but the movie is on overdrive as it is, and in less than an eye-blink, while Luca and Maggie are off somewhere, Summer, who only wants to go back to the USA, takes off with Luca’s mother in tow. Slow down, people! You’re in the Italian countryside!

But why Luca’s mother? It seems she has a story-line too. She just wants to meet the love of her life who’s still in Rome, waiting for her. So off they go, and after them, Maggie and Luca, in an extended chase sequence that manages to up the ante in terms of miscommunications and screwball overtones. You can literally second-guess this one if you’ve seen any comedy of the likes of It Happened One Night and beyond. I’m not even going to describe it. All Roads Lead to Rome is a movie on autopilot wasting the talents of pretty much everyone in it (including Paz Vega who shows up as a news reporter aimed at also being something of a rival for Parker) that somehow, by the virtue of how light and inconsequential it is, manages not to flop. This is romance, ready-made, with prefabricated emotions, just for you.

On Amazon Instant Video and iTunes