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The Italian Contemporary Film Festival

12 Jun 2014

THE ITALIAN CONTEMPORARY FILM FESTIVAL (TORONTO)

The 3rd ICFF (Italian Contemporary Film Festival) runs from June 12th to the 20th of June with films screened at the luxurious TIFF Bell Lightbox.  The timing coincides with the Italian Heritage Week.

Torontonians and visitors get a chance to experience the best of Italian cinema with films mostly in Italian and with English subtitles.

For the complete schedule of films and description, please check the ICFF website at:

www.icff.ca

Capsule reviews are provided for the majority of films below:

THE BEST OFFER (LA MIGIORE OFFERTA)(ITALY 2013) ***
Directed by Guiseppe Tornatore

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Master director Giuseppe Tornatore (EVERYBODY’S FINE, CINEMA PARADISO) tackles art, romance and theft in this artsy film with mixed results.  The story centres on Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) a solitary, cultured man whose reluctance to engage with others, especially women, is matched only by the dogged obsessiveness with which he practices his profession of antiques dealer.   He meets his match and falls in love with a recluse (Sylvia Hoeks).  His young friend Robert (Jim Sturgess) teaches him to win her heart but there is more to the story.  He finds himself losing everything in the mystery tale.  The musical score by Ennio Moricone is superb matched by both excellent art direction and the artwork on display.  But the main flaw of the film is its plausibility.  There are too many twists, turns and coincidences with the story.   But if one would ignore that, Tornatore’s film is quite the feast for the eyes.

THE FIRST SNOWFALL (LA PRIME NEGE) (Italy 2011) ***
Directed by Andrea Segre

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THE FIRST SNOWFALL is a ponderous yet pensive drama with 2 protagonists worlds apart.  One is a young 10-year old boy, Michele who longs for his dead father.  He is looked after by his mother and grandfather who works the hives for honey.  One of his workers is Dani, a refugee from Libya who befriends the boy.  Both are angry souls.  Dani has a baby daughter but the mother died giving birth.  Dani is not a good father but learns to become one through the angry boy.  Dani has never seen snow and hence the title of the film THE FIRST SNOWFALL, the time when, metaphorically, the white will wipe away the troubles.  Dani must decide whether to stay in the Godforsaken little Italian mountain village or move out without his baby daughter, Fatou.   When the film starts, the titles indicate the number of refugees in Italy and how they are often (like Dani) relocated to very remote villages like this one.  The film’s main pluses are the stunning cinematography of the remote Italian woods and mountains in the Tretino region, where logging serves also as a source of income.  The segment of the felling of a gigantic tree is awesome!

LIKE THE WIND (COMME IL VENT ) (Italy/France 2013) **
Directed by Marco Simon Puccioni

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The film begins with a car shooting of a man who turns out to be the lover of Armida Miserer (Valeria Golino).  The film goes on with the relationship (a miscarriage, the living-together, their work in corrections) before director Puccioni’s returns to the same scene.  It turns out that three years have passed, and the film carries on from there where Armida, as the head prison warden is sent to various other postings before giving up totally, even though she somehow (not very convincingly told in the film) managed to confront the killers.  Puccioni’s film plods on very slowly with Armida mopping around most of the time, chain-smoking and having the odd affair.  The film is shot is dull colours similar to the colour of the steel bars in a prison.  It is a long, sordid affair in which the ending is even more depressing.   The non chronological sequencing is even more confusing, but there are also a lot of subplots that lead nowhere.  One moment Armida is fighting for better conditions of the prisoners (and staff) and the next she is giving them a hard time.

THE MAFIA ONLY KILLS IN THE SUMMER (Italy 2013) ****

Directed by Pierfrancesco Dilberto

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Someone is killing all the government officials and rival mobsters in Palermo.  The citizens claim that the killings are related to women.  They do not believe that it is the local Mafia responsible.  Seen from the eyes of a young schoolboy, Arturo (Alex Bisconti and portrayed later as an adult by the director) who is totally in love with his classmate, Flora (Cristiana Capotondi) and also totally fascinated by the premier, Guilio Andreotti, the film is thus able to get away with a romanticized look at the Mafia.  There is no blood or violence on screen and though the film can hardly be labelled as laugh-out hilarious, the film is entertaining enough.  Most of the killings are shown in the aftermath, such as the debris after a bomb and explosions.  Director occasionally seems to eager to please, as in the opening scenes in which he describes how the boy is conceived by the lone sperm (using a combination of live action and animation) amidst a Mafia hit.  The film ties in with troubled events of true Mafia assassinations of Boris Giuliano and Gen. Dalla Chiesa and others.  Dilberyo has accomplished an admiral effort with this tale of the Mafia’s domination in Sicily.

MONA LISA IS MISSING (USA 2013) ****
Directed by Joe Medeiros

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The documentary tracing the truth about the theft of the famous Leonardo Da Binci painting the Mona Lisa  is a labour of love for director Joe Medeiros.  Medeiros was always obsessed with the theft and even wrote a book about it with the inanition of getting rich.  Not really rich, but enough to pay for his house and have a little money travelling.  As such the goal of the director and the their a simple minded Vincenzo Peruggia are similar, there is a bond between the two men and a respect that the director would otherwise not have for a common thief.  Mederiros’ documentary is exhaustive as he interviews Peruggia’s late daughter (which the film is dedicated to), promising her to find out the truth, good or bad.  Medeiros goes through archives of newspaper articles, letters and recounts the footsteps and places that Pwruggia took during the theft and return of the Mona Lisa.  The result is a very clear and comprehensive documentary that illustrates the emotions and minds of human beings while also revealing the truth of the theft and return of the Mona Lisa.

IL MONDO DI MAD (MAD: THE WORLD OF FASHION) (Italy 2013) ***
Directed by Anna Di Francesca

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This is a documentary on MAD short for Maddalena Sisto of the fashion world.  MAD’s sketches for Armani, Fiorucci and :Ferré recount 30 years of Italian fashion. Her drawings reflect the influence that fashion had on women and how it was then reinterpreted.  Using MAD’s work as a visual reference, the famous fashion designers in Milano are interviewed to tell the story of Italian fashion in the golden years of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. MAD left 12000 drawings which are animated specifically for the film!  Francesca’s doc is less a film about the woman but about fashion with the drawings placed intermittently on the screen sidebar often during the clothes on display by the models.  Nothing too much to be learnt about the fashion industry here, but a light overlook.  If the film is entertaining enough, who is to complain?

UNDER A LUCKY STAR (SOTTO UNA BUONA STELLA) (Italy 2014) ****
Directed by Carlo Verdone

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Carlo Verdone, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the ICFF this year, is directing and starring in a romantic comedy called UNDER A LUCKY STAR.  Verdone is in his fifties and an unlikely candidate for the male romantic lead, but what he lacks in male hunkiness, he more than makes it up with his Italian charm.  At the film’s start, his character Federico Picchioni loses his high end job in a scandal involving his chief.  As a result his son and daughter and her daughter move in with him and his bitchy new wife as he is unable to afford the rent of their apartments.  But his new neighbour (Paolo Cortellesi) gradually warms up to Federico’s charms.  Verdone’s film is funny and full of heart, charm and family values.  Also the fact, that it is a romantic comedy about an over aged man coming-to-terms with life and learning about his children in the process makes it such a winning film.

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