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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Reflections on Two Contemporary Classics

"In viaggio con papà" 

I am working on an article that makes reference to Paolo Sorrentino’s "The Great Beauty," so I watched it again over the weekend. I really enjoyed Carlo Verdone’s scenes even more this second time around because the role is such an aberration for him. Being a soft-spoken, failed writer whose last line is “Rome has really disappointed me,” in my opinion, is so different from any of his other roles. I think it was brave of him to accept it. Watching it again, I felt that his presence (and also Sabrina Ferilli’s) added so much authenticity to the film.  

Browsing his projects and interviews on YouTube afterwards, I discovered that a complete version of Alberto Sordi’s "In viaggio con papà" was recently uploaded (but taken down shortly thereafter). As I’m on a Sordi marathon after writing my first in-depth article about him recently, I had to watch it. Even without English subtitles, what an experience. Seeing them work their magic together is simply mesmerizing. Sordi’s beautiful, powerful laugh is still resounding in my head today. I also loved seeing Rome in the 1980s. Although the traffic along the Lungotevere hasn’t changed much, it’s romantic to see Verdone and Sordi right in the middle of it. I really adore these two. 

Watch this hilarious clip..

"In viaggio con papà" is hard to find the United States. I watched it with the closed captions on and found it hilarious that they couldn't always keep up with the non-stop dialogue between Sordi and Verdone. This film is an absolute treasure. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Jasmine Trinca Makes Her Directorial Debut with 'Being My Mom'

It’s a scorching day in a deserted Rome: mother and daughter are walking non-stop, dragging a large suitcase. The couple seem to seek one another, fleeing from each other, inverting their natural roles in continuation. Until, with just one gesture, they reveal the unexpected epiphany of their love. And so begins a new chapter for actress Jasmine Trinca as a director.

“Being My Mom is a metaphorical walk in the existence of two women, a mother and her daughter, two protagonists of nothing but their lives. We are watching them by chance; two creatures taking part in existence, inessential for the world but essential for one another. It is a study of the bright and obscure paths of maternity and progeny,” explained Trinca.

The film, which stars Alba Rohrwacher and Maayane Conti, boasts an all-female cast and crew, and has already made the line-up of two film festivals- Giovanna Taviani's Salina DocFest and Australia's nationwide Italian Film Festival. We'll keep you updated on future virtual screenings. In the meantime, click here to read my interview with Trinca. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

The First Edition of the Matera Film Festival is Underway

The first edition of the Matera Film Festival is underway in the ancient stone city of Basilicata. A four day event featuring films from all over the world as well as books and art installations celebrating film, the festival is a physical event with social distancing measures in place. The first three days of the event count as the official film festival with the fourth to feature works focusing on culture, not in competition.

The festival was created by local filmmakers who have been prolific in the international filmmaking scene that has exploded in recent years, inspiring the region’s nickname- “Basilicata: Land of Cinema.” Among them are actress Annarita del Piano, co-president (with Dario Toma) of the festival, actor and artistic director Nando Irene, creative director Silvio Giordano and producer Enzo Sisti who will serve as the honorary president. 


Sisti is responsible for bringing international crews to Matera, starting with Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” up to the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die.” Among the many films he has worked on are Richard Donner’s “Ladyhawke,” Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Terry Gilliam’s “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun” and “Gangs of New York,” Anthony Minghella’s “The Talent of Mr. Ripley” and the Academy Award winner “The English Patient.” His latest projects are “Wonder Woman” and the production of the first VR film ever made “Jesus - the Story of Christ.” Both were shot in Matera.


The festival opened on Thursday with the exhibit “Sassi, Nuvole e Lupi” (Stone, Clouds and Wolves), an installation dedicated to the city of the Sassi and the comic series “Dampyr.” The exhibition is divided into two spaces. The first will feature illustrations of scenes set in Matera, created for “Dampyr” by Alessio Fortunato and “Martin Mystere” by Giuseppe Palumbo. The second will feature excerpts from the book “Pasolini 1964 - Beyond Matera and the Mediterranean” by Palumbo, Maurizio Camerini and Alessandro Manna. The book combines illustrations by Palumbo with texts by Camerini and Alessandro Manna combined with unpublished photos by Mimì Notarangelo taken on the set of Pasolini’s film “The Gospel according to Matthew.”

Among the guests in attendance are actor Franco Nero, screenwriter Nicola Guaglianone, journalist and film critic Alberto Crespi and many regional actors who have had parts in various productions shot in the Sassi.

There are several interesting discussions planned with local artists, writers and filmmakers, including a masterclass on editing and special effects hosted by two renowned Italian filmmakers, Leonardo Cruciano and Marco Spoletini.


The four-day event runs through September 27. Follow this link to view the full program.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Release Date is Set for Sophia Loren's New Film

Edoardo Ponti’s new film starring his mother, Sophia Loren and actor Renato Carpentieri, will premiere on Netflix November 13, 2020 and there is already Oscar buzz for Loren’s performance. 

Based on the novel “The Life Ahead” by Romain Gary, Ponti co-wrote the screenplay with Ugo Chiti. The film follows Momo, a 10-year-old Senegalese orphan cared for by an elderly Jewish woman named Madame Rosa. She is a former prisoner at Auschwitz and later became a prostitute in Paris. At times, Madame Rosa retreats to a small hideout in a cellar where she keeps artifacts of her Jewish heritage. The young boy tells the story of his life in the orphanage and of his relationship with Madame Rosa as her health deteriorates.

Bookmark this link to stream “The Life Ahead” on Netflix..

In the meantime, let’s revisit a few questions in my 2012 interview with Ponti on the occasion of his premiere for “The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars” at the Tribeca Film Festival. We talked about this very special mother/son collaboration and what it was like growing up with two cinema icons for parents.

Let's talk about your family. What was it like growing up with two icons as parents? Did you feel like a regular kid, or did you feel that there was really something extraordinary about your household and your childhood?
It was extraordinary how ordinary my childhood was. That's from the intellegence of my parents. We were not a true Hollywood family. We had a group of friends that had nothing to do with film. We were raised to stay grounded and to never take anything for granted.


Your mother and your wife have had leading roles in your films. Tell me about those collaborations. 

My father produced many of my mother’s films, so working with loved ones is natural for us. They are actors that I admire and they are part of my family, so it's quite natural for me and it's helpful in finding the right words to communicate. The lines of communication are already well-oiled and open.


I grew up watching your mother in films. I've seen her interviews, cooked recipes from her cookbook, and adored her for as long as I can remember. Tell me something about Sophia Loren; the mother, the person and the woman when the cameras are off.

What's amazing is how grounded she is. She never allowed us to be seduced by her success or believe in the glamour of her profession. She is a woman who lives for her family and for her own personal growth. She has an enormous appetite to work and to tackle roles that she has not yet tackled.  It is beautiful for us to look up to our mother and admire the woman that she is.. and I truly do. She is an exceptional human being.


You've had several roles throughout your lifetime: the son of icons, brother, husband, father, filmmaker. Do you feel that any of those roles stand out in defining you? The sum of everything I have is the total of everything I've done. There is no question that the most important role is my role as father. In the end, I am putting into the world two people and I am responsible in helping them grow up and also giving them enough space to be become their own people. It's a big responsibility. 

Click here to read the full story. 

Click on the image below to stream Ponti and Loren's 2002 film, "Between Strangers" on Amazon Prime. Click here to stream it on Vudu.. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Contemporary Italian Cinema Coming to a Virtual Theater Near You

Several contemporary Italian films will be available to stream in the coming months. 

Gianfranco Rosi’s new documentary "Notturno" will be available via the Toronto International Film Festival on September 18 and if you're in the US, on October 6, via the Virtual Cinema of the New York Film Festival.

Having just premiered at the Venice Film Festival, the documentary film was shot over a three-year period along the borders between Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan and Lebanon. Rosi gives voice to a human drama that transcends geographical divisions and time, with encounters and images of the life that is impacted by the continuous tragedy of civil wars, brutal dictatorships, foreign invasions and interference and living in the shadow of ISIS. We hear it in the mournful cries of mothers, in the stammering of permanently wounded children and in a play about the senselessness of politics performed by patients in a psychiatric hospital. Rosi presents us with different stories that go beyond the conflicts. 

Click here to purchase a ticket in TIFF's virtual cinema and here for the New York Film Festival. (Scroll down to the films available on the 18th) Click here to read a review by Indiewire.

Pietro Marcello’s long-awaited US premiere of "Martin Eden" will take place on October 16 in theaters and virtual cinemas. 

When unskilled laborer Martin Eden meets Elena, the daughter of a wealthy industrial family, it’s love at first sight. The well-educated, refined young woman soon becomes an obsession for Martin who hopes that his dreams of becoming a writer will help him rise above his humble origins to marry Elena. With determination and at the cost of great hardship, Martin sets out to get the education that his class has never allowed him to receive. Finding support in an older friend, left-wing intellectual Russ Brissenden, Martin soon gets involved in socialist circles, leading not only to political reawakening and destructive anxiety but also a conflict with Elena and her bourgeois world.

Click here to read our interview with director Pietro Marcello.

Perhaps to coincide with the release of "Martin Eden," Marcello's acclaimed 2009 film "The Mouth of the Wolf" will open for a virtual theatrical release also on October 16 through Film at Lincoln Center and other theaters. 

The film follows Enzo as he returns to Genoa after a lengthy absence. He crosses the city in search of places he remembers from before, but they have been inexorably changed by passing time. He finds Mary waiting for him at the small house in the ghetto of the old city. His lifelong companion, she has been waiting for Enzo to return from the prison where he was serving time.

A great opportunity is being offered by the Centro Nazionale del Cortometraggio (Italian Short Film Center of Torino) and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Watch one short Italian film a week for 10 weeks free of charge! The 2020 edition of "10 Shorts Around the World" features ten Italian short films available to stream.

You can watch these films in the United States thanks to the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco. Click here to register on the institute's website.  Click here for more information on the program.

CINEDAY is a weekly event and there are only 300 virtual tickets available for each film. The Istituto Italiano Cultura SF has resumed the film series, which features ten Italian contemporary films, available to the first 300 people who register. Tickets are free, but you have to register every Sunday. The first virtual screening filled up very quickly. Click here to register as soon as the links for each film become available.

Luca Guadagnino's much anticipated HBO series "We Are Who We Are" has just premiered. The coming-of-age series follows two American teenagers as they explore their true identities while living on a military base in the seaside town of Chioggia, Italy. Click here to stream it.

We are also waiting on a release date for Edoardo Ponti's new film that will star his mother, the divine Sophia Loren along with veteran Italian actor Renato Carpentieri. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for details on the virtual screenings. 

In Conversation with Director Cecilia Pignocchi

Filmmakers Arthur Couvat and  Cecilia Pignocchi It’s unusual for a first-time filmmaker to be recognized by a high-profile, international fi...