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    A scene from Open My Heart / Aprimi il Cuore. in Open Roads: New Italian Cinema
    A scene from "Open My Heart" / "Aprimi il Cuore."

    Roman holiday

    An Italian panorama — love, revenge, and lots of humor — is on tap for this year's edition of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema.


    The fastest way to Italy for the next two weeks is at Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. A group of recent films will take you to far corners of the country, far from the standard Rome, Florence and Venice. The characters may be real people with real emotions, and their directness is, well, very Italian. And they are never less than interesting.


    Related links: Official site
    Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2003
  • Overview
  • El Alamein

    Past years
  • Open Roads: New Italian Cinema (2002)

  • Official site
  • For the most part, these are what is usually termed "small films." Avoiding head-on competition with Hollywood blockbusters has been the name of the game for a long time in Italy. Think "indies" and you'll get the flavor. Fortunately, the most popular domestic films in Italy (as Americans snatch the lion's share of audience), the facile comedies, are happily underrepresented here.

    The one film not to miss is Enzo Monteleone's "El Alamein," a powerful evocation of the Italian regiment abandoned to its own devices in the Egyptian desert during the onslaught of English forces during World War II. A half-century later it ruffled quite a few feathers among the neo-fascists in the current rightist Italian government. Coming at the very beginning of the festival, "El Alamein" is alternately ironic, brutal, comic and moving. Best of all, the intense masculinity rings true — a far cry from the faux variety of "Beau travail." It's a war film you'll never forget.

    Two other titles deserve attention. "Pater Familias" traces Matteo (promising Luigi Iacuzio) returning to his town in the Naples hinterland on a single day's parole. Director Francesco Patierno's device of using ochre tones for Matteo's flashbacks to the string of incidents that got him in jail and blue for the present is as simple as it is effective. Patierno depicts the full range of everyday interpersonal violence in matter-of-fact style. In "Maximum Velocity (V-Max)/Velocita Massima" wannabe Formula One junior mechanic Claudio (talented Cristiano Morroni) challenges his boss Stefano (Valerio Mastandrea) in the shop, on the road and in bed, briefly sharing a girlfriend. Both are embedded in the high-stakes drag racing set on the outskirts of Rome. Daniele Vicari's direction is mightily enhanced by Gherardo Gossi's cinematography.

    A scene from Soul Mate / L'anima Gemella. in Open Roads: New Italian Cinema  
    A scene from "Soul Mate" / "L'anima Gemella."
    If last year's selection (see article) was overweighted on the humorous side, this group is more pensive. Blame Stefano Accorsi's appearances in multiple films last year for the seeming preponderance of sentimental comedy in the mix. Accorsi's replacement for the 2003 edition of Open Roads is Sergio Rubini, who seems most believable in midlife crisis mode.

    In "Truth and Lies/La forza del passato" Rubini blasts old Doors cuts to soften a conflict between the image of his recently deceased father as stalwart general versus his possibly true identity, covert KGB agent. Conundrum is courtesy old family friend played by Bruno Ganz, who also briefly threatens to morph the film into an East European (well, Slovenian) road flick. Script by Lara Fremder and Piergiorgio Gay is better than Gay's direction. Switched identities should add interest to "Soul Mate / L'anima gemella", a sort of "Sopranos" meets "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". But one inattentive moment is enough to obscure who's who between love rivals for hunky Tonino (his name is a play on the family fish cannery business) post-witch's spell. Rubini as actor covers the same ground as in "Truth and Lies", perhaps because he directed and co-authored the script.

    One coughs, the other takes sleeper trains in "Two Friends/Due amici". Sprio Scimone and Francesco Sframele take their comedy duo from stage to screen with deadpan humor aided by Andrea Morricone's effective score. Sandwiched among these new films is a reminder of the comic genius of beloved, recently deceased comic Alberto Sordi. "Il mafioso" (director Alberto Lattuada) finds Sordi an accidental participant in a Sicilian cosa nostra operation, to the dismay of his new Milanese bride.

    Festival articles



    El Alamein

    Italians aren't usually thought of as war heroes, but that's what the divisions in the Egyptian desert in WWII became after being abandoned by central command, their story reconstructed from diaries and oral accounts.

    MAY 30, 2003

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