by NEVIL GIBSON
The former glories of Italian cinema were on grand display in La Grande Bellezza (The Great
Beauty) earlier this year.
Other glimpses are among the 18 features in this year’s Italian Film Festival, which has
been running for 19 years under the tutelage of Tony Lambert.
It remains the most significant single-country film festival and is showing in the four main centres, with some titles also screening in Nelson, Hawke’s Bay, Hamilton and Tauranga.
Mr Lambert is adept at serving up a full menu ranging, from antipasti of romantic comedies,
pasta of everyday drama to a main course of serious cinema and finished off with a resounding
two-part dolce (dessert) of Volare — the story of singer Domenico Modugno.
An underlying theme is a shift to social concerns that reflect Italy’s turmoil during the Eurozone financial crisis and endemic corruption in public affairs.
Other countries might have produced a series of gloomy stories.
Instead, Italians adapt to reality and retain a sense of humour as well as optimistic outlook, even towards the most entrenched problems, such as illegal immigration from North Africa.
Italy’s top actor, Tony Servillo, last seen as the Mastroianni-like lead in The Great Beauty, has a plum double role in Viva la liberta (Long Live Freedom) in a familiar device for political dramas — swapping identical twins.
One is disillusioned with his party’s campaign and empty slogans.
He quits and heads for anonymity in Paris with a previous flame (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). He
is secretly replaced by his philosopher brother, who has just Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (left) and Tony Servillo star in Viva la Liberta (Long Live Freedom).
Italian films reflect social crisis Italy’s chaotic politics are treated in less reverential tone in Viva l’Italia (Long Live Italy), in which Michele Spagnolo employs another familiar device — the corrupt politician who, after a mild stroke while entertaining his mistress, loses his ability to tell untruths.
First, he insults his close colleagues and family, saying he is compelled to tell the truth,
and ends up becoming a hero of the now-forgotten Occupy movement.
Again, the outcome is predictable, but the substance is in the complications of family relationships.
His three adult off spring have all benefited from his nepotism and are faced with reassessing
A deeper form of politics is the backdrop to Breve storia di lunghi tradimenti (The Lithium
Conspiracy), a pacey thriller that starts with an Italian company building a railway line across a salt lake in a fictitious South American country in 1913.
The lake also contains half of the world’s supply of lithium, a 99-year lease is about to expire and left-wing rebels are about to overthrow a corrupt leader.
Cosimo e Nicole (Cosimo and Nicole) is a more intimate piece featuring two young lovers caught
up in the plight of an African migrant worker, who is seriously injured in a work accident.
• More information and ratings of the Italian Film Festival are at www.italianfilmfestival.com.