Film critics Athena Bryan and Cece Lee discuss some of the films featured at Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2017.
A monk (Toni Servillo) seems not just out of place but out of time as he enters the lush retreat of the G8 Summit. He had been invited by an uber-financier, Daniel Roché (Daniel Auteuil), who begs him to take his confession. When Roché dies suddenly, the international power brokers fall into disarray, desperate to get information from the monk. With doleful eyes, silence, and intermittent communications that can best be described as “trolling”, he navigates their intrigue. This is a morality tale, masquerading as a whodunnit, but a real stand-out in this festival for its untempered stance against the financial elite. A position few American films are willing to take. - Athena Bryan
Children of the Night
One wouldn’t expect to feel exhilarated from an eerie neo-noir thriller, but this is no ordinary film. Set in an isolated boarding school reminiscent of The Shining, something sinister lurks in every corner, but we’re not sure where the main threat lies. In this dark, looming fortress, everyone is suspect and vulnerable, and everything feels haunted or hunted— especially privileged boys and their teachers (who seem more like captors than guardians). Young Giulo is particularly vulnerable, as he’s unwillingly abandoned at this school by a loving but preoccupied mother. What makes the film so satisfying— as there are mysteries to be solved along the way— is when we ask the inevitable questions, we need not wait long for answers. Answers often come with twists, and the big twists are enthralling. Andrea de Sica’s first feature film takes typical cinematic equations and spins them on their heads. Vicenzo Crea (Giulo) and Ludovico Succio (Edoardo) are stunning as fast friends who feel betrayed by the world. - Cece Lee
Sun, Heart, Love
As it opens, the film intercuts a dancer pirouetting in rehearsal with a barista’s tireless efforts against a rush of espresso orders. Sound cute? Not so — Daniele Vicari’s film is excruciating. The dancer is Vale (Eva Grieco), a queer physicist-turned-dancer who performs integrative choreography in clubs, while the barista is her neighbor and friend, Eli (Isabella Ragonese), a mother of four, whose charisma and warmth radiates from her. Vale has fairly typical problems with love, family, and career choices. Eli’s are the intractable sort with an agonizing commute, a fallow job market, and a family to support. The latter prove more affecting but almost too painful to watch. - Athena Bryan
Throngs of people flock to Father Cataldo, the local exorcist in Palermo, Italy. Some travel up to 200 km to wait hours to see him. As the possessed convulse, hurl spit and obscenities, handling these demons is as ordinary for Father Cataldo as walking dogs through a park. What’s clear is that no other recourse is available to a society afflicted by what the Vatican calls “a pastoral emergency.” That puts a large burden upon priests like Father Cataldo. Though unfazed by Satan, his is a thankless job with few (if any) long-lasting victories. Deliver Us is a serious documentary which follows Father Cataldo and a select variety of ordinary individuals who show signs of possession. Unlike the Hollywood versions, there’s nothing horrific here, more a cultural diagnosis and its prescription for the increased unhappiness in the world. - Cece Lee
Two Soldiers is about a soldier stationed in Afghanistan (Dario Rea), and in Naples a low-level mafia member (Daniele Vicorito) and the soldier’s fiancé Anna (Angela Fontana). The confusion I had in the exposition as to whether we were in Naples or Afghanistan was probably intentional, and the best parallel the movie hit upon. Otherwise, bad pacing dulls its effectiveness. It takes a full half hour to establish a fairly simple premise, then over-explains its thesis which is present right there in the title, Two Soldiers. It is Anna, though, who is neither kind of soldier, who is the real fighter, and Fontana makes the movie worth watching. - Athena Bryan
For more information on Open Roads: New Italian Cinema click here.