ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL 2017 – reviews

The Lavazza Italian Film Festival screens at Palace Cinemas around Australia in September. The opening night film is the Golden Globe Award winning comedy Let Yourself Go! Tenderness, the new film from director Gianni Amelio will be followed by Q&A sessions hosted by Greta Scacchi.

ALL FILMS REVIEWED BY GREG KING

LAST UPDATED SEPTEMBER 5, 2017

INDIVISIBLE.

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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. 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, etc) 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 girls’ supportive mother.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.

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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 (aka 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. Not to be missed!

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