Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:52 pm 
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Frantic Italian melodrama

In the veteran actor Sergio Castellitto's latest outing as a director, Jasmine Trinca (The Son's Room) plays the ironically named Fortunata ("Lucky"), a young mother and hairdresser living in the eastern outskirts of Rome trying to start her own beauty salon and neglecting her angry eight-year-old daughter Barbara (Nicole Centanni). The daughter's acting out - she spits, which later her mother says she's learning from her - leads mom to take her to Patrizio, a handsome psychotherapist, played by Stefano Accorsi (The Last Kiss, Romanzo Criminale). The treatment doesn't jell, but Fortunata and the shrink form an instant attraction. This foolish event seems the movie's central motive for action.

There are interesting and known actors. Fortunata's best friend, a bipolar tattoo artist drug addict, Chicano, is played by the hot new Italian star Alessandro Borghi (in two other Open Roads films this year, Naples in Veils and The Place), and Chicano's mother, a once famous German actress now in her dotage, is played byHanna Schygulla, in a very wasted role for such a distinguished performer. Fortnata's estranged, soon-to-be ex-husband Franco (Edoardo Pesce) is also lurking in the wings. In fact he enters the center stage regularly behaving in a threatening and sexually abusive way, by far the most unpleasant of these questionable individuals. Pesce is an actor powerful in projecting evil and menace, and is seen as a mean petty gangster in Matteo Garrone's new film debuted at 2018 Cannes, Dogman. Everyone is rampted up to high a pitch here, but he is particularly so.

No one quite lives up to their specifications in this rather disreputable group of individuals. Barbara scarcely gets to behave like a child. Fortunata is like a child, but hard to imagine as a hairdresser or performing any job, starting any business. As a psychotherapist, Patrizio mouths soothing generalities, but his goofy smiles do not inspire confidence in his seriousness. Even Chicano never really seems like much of a drug addict, nor a tattoo artist for anybody but Fortunata, nor even bipolar. He seems a beautific hippy with long hair and long beard, dressed in black, looking tanned and fit. Later "bipolar" seems to mean dangerously crazy.

Jay Weissberg called Fortunata "sloppily scripted" and "very Italian" in his Variety review at Cannes. He points out various weaknesses. There should be some explanation given for Fortunata sitting in on Barbara's therapy sessions, other than the opportunity for her and Patrizio to get turned on by each other."Fortunata confronts Patrizio, their eyes meet, and bang! the two start passionately smooching." Some filmmakers might be able to carry this off, but here somehow it becomes embarrassing. Clearly, it is exceptionally irresponsible of Fortunata to go off on a love idyll to Genoa with Patrizio and leave Barbara in the care of Chicano; it does lead to unfortunate consequences. Patrizio "must be one of the most ill-conceived psychologists in recent cinema," writes Weissberg, because "he makes so many unprofessional choices." He is the more repellant because he seems meant to be sympathetic.

But above all, as he notes, these characters and their actions have no depth - no deeper than the mugging and shouting and running around of the actors playing them. This is operatic drama, the reason why Weissberg calls it "very Italian," full of extreme emotions that do not convince and aren't clear.

I am not sure the uniformed Chinese woman doing morning exercises and dark-skinned muslims performing prayer out of doors express xenophobic sentiments. They may merely be included for colorful effect, in emulation of Sorrentino's symphonic sequences in La grande bellezza. I noted Weissberg's comment that as before Castellitto "inserts a wealth of songs at key 'mood' moments," but ineffectually.

Stephen Dalton expresses no higher opinion of this film in his CannesHollywood Reporter review. He noes that Castellitto is more known and respected for his 100+ film roles than for his by now six directorial outings with Margaret Mazzantini as writer. CastellIto may strive to emulate Pasolini's Mama Roma, which had the same location, or vintage Pedro Almod├│var, Dalton says, but Fortunata "ends up something of a soapy hot mess instead."

One remembers the choreographed rush and throbbing mild hysteria that make Gabriele Muccino's early films fun to watch, with their rhythmic movement and operatic surge. The craft was smoother and more retrained. It could be so because Muccino began with people similar to himself going through experiences he knew about: teenage milestones, turning thirty, midlife crisis.

Fortunata, 103 mins., debuted at Cannes 21 May 2017 in the Un Certain Regard section, where the star, Jasmine Trinca won Best Actress. It opened in French theaters 31 May. Nearly a dozen other festivals including Munich, Karlovy, Chicago, Warsaw and Belgrade. Screened for this review as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema at Lincoln Center, Jun. 2018, the film's New York premiere.
Friday, June 1, 6:15pm (Q&A with Jasmine Trinca)
Monday, June 4, 2:00pm

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