Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 3:08 am 
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Patient opposition

This film by the director of the renowned mini-series The Best of Youth/La meglio gioventù is a timely one indeed. It concerns a case of sexual harassment in which the person involved fought the web of omertà protecting offending males and won in court. Both the man and his associate who supported him went to jail. This protagonist is notable for her courage and determination. The film has a sedate pace that makes it a slow burner, requiring our patience, but in return it conveys the magnitude and complexity of events with some subtlety. (This is something like the way Giordana worked in The Best of Youth.)

Nina (Cristiana Capotondi, who was in the 2013 Open Roads filmThe Mafia Kills Only in Summer) is an attractive woman preyed upon by a man with power. She takes a job as an attendant at a fancy retirement home at a big estate in the country. The director of the center (Valerio Binasco), interviewing her, corners her and touches her inappropriately. As far as we know, it may only happen once, but it is nasty and exploitative, and Nina does not accept it.

Soon it becomes clear that this has happened to many of the women who work there. But they insinuate that saying nothing is a necessary condition of keeping their jobs. They scorn and exclude Nina for her insistence that the behavior must be brought out and condemned. There is a culture of acquiescence and complicity, what in the south of Italy, for the mafia, is called omertà.

All the staff and even a local priest connected with the center (Bebo Storti) tells Nina that she is out of line and must not speak up. Her boyfriend tells her that since he makes enough for both of them, she could just quit this job and get away from the oppressive situation. But she likes the job, and doesn't want to have to do that. She wants justice done. Fortunately, she finds legal support. The film becomes a legal drama, and shows how the case works out in Nina's favor.

Though this is a project Giordana undertook three years ago, it directly relates to the now international Me Too movement against sexual harassment of women. In its subtle, patient unfolding Nome di Donna well conveys a sense of how a single traumatic experience can linger long in the mind and require action. It celebrates Nina's quiet heroism and shows that this kind of injustice can e fought, even in a conservative and protected corner of a Catholic country.

Though in many ways a finely crafted and and certainly timely film, Nome di Donna is not as strong as it could have been. Perhaps it is to be commended for refraining from over-dramatic moments and showing that this kind of crime is very often committed quickly and quietly but no less harmful and lasting in its effect for that. Nonetheless under the circumstances the film feels like rather a missed opportunity. It suffers from various flaws. As Italian critic Marco Cacioppo (Cineforum) puts it, at a certain point it collapses under its own weight, partly by morphing into a legal procedural in the last section that loses touch with the personal and emotional thrust it has in the beginning. Furthermore, as Cacioppo also notes, Nina's behavior in signing a waiver after beginning legal action is inexplicable, and the director and his administrative associate are too obviously and satisfyingly slimy.

Nome di Donna, 92 mins., was theatrically released in Italy 8 Mar. 2018. It was screened for this review as part of the Lincoln Center Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series (31 May-6 Jun. 2018).

June 2 -3:30 PM
June 5 - 4:30 PM
Q&A with Marco Tullio Giordana on June 2

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