Italian Film Festival 2017 – film feature

A perennial festival favourite, the Lavazza Italian Film Festival screens at Palace Cinemas around Australia in September.

Italian/Australian actor Greta Scacchi is on board as this year’s Festival Ambassador. She’ll be participating in Q&As at selected festival screenings of Tenderness (La Tenerezza), Gianni Amelio’s latest film, in which Scacchi features. 

Let Yourself Go!

The opening night film is the Golden Globe Award winning comedy Let Yourself Go!.  The film stars Toni Servillo as the uptight psychoanalyst Elia, whose life is upended when he becomes involved with the effervescent personal trainer Claudia (Veronica Echegui) – a woman well-versed in matters of the body but less so of the mind. As Claudia drags Elia around Rome, a series of mishaps ensue, breathing new energy into his tired and predictable life.

Here are some of the other highlights.

INDIVISIBLE

The centrepiece film screening at this year’s festival is the gritty and vaguely disturbing drama Indivisible, which won four Donatella Awards, the Italian equivalent of the Oscars.

Conjoined at the hip since birth, twins Daisy and Viola (played by real life twin sisters Angela and Marianna Fontana, making their acting debuts) sing at religious functions, christenings and weddings. People want to touch them in the belief that it will bring them luck. But the sisters are being callously exploited by their controlling father (Massimiliano Rossi) who takes credit for their success and pockets most of the proceedings. But then they have a chance meeting with a Swiss doctor, who informs them that he could safely separate them and give them a chance at a normal life. Daisy is excited by this prospect as she wants to lead her own life and experience some of the pleasures of life, and dreams of heading to Los Angeles.

Indivisible

Viola is less certain and more anxious about what separation would mean to her. The sisters set off on a journey fraught with peril that increases the tension between them. Not since Brian De Palma’s creepy Sisters have we seen such a dark tale about conjoined twins. Director Edoardo De Angelis (Perez) develops an air of unease with this scenario, and the film moves from pathos to shock to sentimentality as it explores the girls’ hopes and fears, but it heads towards a rather downbeat ending.

The film explores themes of identity, independence, greed, and family. Angelis’ direction is assured, and Indivisible shows us a rather seedy perspective of Italian society with its greed, religious fervour and poverty. The film has been nicely shot by his regular cinematographer Ferran Paredes, who opens with an impressive long tracking shot. The Fontana sisters are great here as the twins and elicit a measure of sympathy from the audience. Rossi is superb as their monstrous, selfish and detestable father, a songwriter with a penchant for dark ballads, but it is Antonia Truppo, in her award-winning performance, who earns the most sympathy as the girl’s supportive mother.

EMMA

Direct from its World Premiere at this year’s Venice Film Festival, Emma is the new film by Silvio Soldini. The director is best known for his multi-award winning drama Bread and Tulips.

Emma

Teo is an elusive womaniser who works as a creative in a trendy ad agency. Emma is an osteopath, blind since she was 16. When the two first meet at an event held in total darkness, Teo is mesmerized by Emma’s voice. Emma, freshly out of her marriage, is too smart to give into the illusion of Teo’s affection, but he seems like the perfect man to engage in a bit of carefree fun with.

THE INTRUDER

Premiering in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, The Intruder, (L’Intrusa) follows Leonardo di Costanzo’s Venice Biennale award-winning debut The Interval. A thoughtful and persuasive study in the limitations of compassion and the hard-won nature of trust, the film focuses on combative social worker Giovanna. Running an after-school care centre, Giovanna is asked to protect a young mother and her two children, confronting her with a moral dilemma that threatens to ruin her work and her life.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL

As usual, the closing night film is a classic, and this year it is Roberto Benigni’s Oscar winning WWII drama/comedy Life Is Beautiful. In many of his films, Benigni has displayed a physical style of comedy that has drawn comparisons with Chaplin. And like Chaplin he also has his serious side, which comes to the fore in this haunting and profoundly moving and human story set in a concentration camp towards the end of WWII.

Life is Beautiful

Life Is Beautiful (La Vita E Bella) is about the power of love, hope and laughter in the face of tragedy and death. Benigni plays a Jewish man interned inside a concentration camp who lies to his young son, pretending that their predicament is merely a game. He gives us plenty of slapstick humour and delightful running jokes throughout, and maintains a deceptively light and breezy pace. Benigni suffuses this ironically titled tale of survival and the triumph of the spirit with a wonderful sense of black humour as well as optimism. He uses remarkable restraint in downplaying the grim horrors of the Nazi camps, which makes the atrocities all the more affecting and ultimately moving.

Tonino Delli Colli’s cinematography even captures the two distinct moods of the film, with the first half shot in glorious colours and with lots of energy. The second half gives way to darker, more gloomy colours that give it an oppressive and claustrophobic feel. Life Is Beautiful evokes memories of classic films from Chaplin’s The Great Dictator through to The Bicycle Thieves, and the film moves unexpectedly from the giddy humour of its beautiful love story to powerful and heart wrenching drama. A film not to be missed!

The Lavazza Italian Film Festival presented by Palace screens in the following locations:
Sydney: September 12 – October 8, 2017 at Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona, and Chauvel Cinemas
Melbourne: Sept 14 to Oct 8, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth, Palace Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Kino Cinemas, and The Astor Theatre
Canberra: Sept 14 to Oct 8, Palace Electric Cinemas
Brisbane: Sept 20 to Oct 8, Palace Barracks and Palace Centro
Adelaide: Sept 13 to Oct 1, Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas
Perth: Sept 21 to Oct 11, Cinema Paradiso, and Luna on SX
Hobart: Oct 19 – 25, The State Cinema

Greg King

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