7 posts categorized "Italian Cinema"

August 27, 2015



CANNES, FRANCE —Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth” features Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as a couple of old friends facing down the last days of their lives while vacationing at a luxurious hotel spa in the foothills of the Alps. If watching this dream pairing of actors doesn’t sound like the best thing since the invention of ice cream, then this film is not for you. Don’t bother; you’re not worthy of it to begin with. If, on the other hand, you have a penchant for vibrant international cinema that goes out on an intricately composed limb to discover veiled truths about friendship, love, loyalty, and the creation of art, then settle in for a refined cinematic treat.

Madalina Ghenea Nude Full Frontal In Youth - Photo 4 - /Nude

Substantial emotional proportions extend out over the physical and metaphorical horizons that Sorrentino puts crisply into view.

Youth, film review: Michael Caine gives an aloof performance | The  Independent | The Independent

Fred Ballinger (Caine) and Mick Boyle (Keitel) are lifelong pals who have come together once again to relax and reflect on their lives in a familiar idyllic location. Fred is a highly esteemed composer and orchestra conductor still recovering from the loss of his much beloved wife.

Youth Movie Review - StageBuddy.com

Michael Caine’s deceptively effortless embodiment of his musically gifted character echoes with an openness of spirit that fills the viewer with a simmering sense of passion. A painfully obsequious emissary from Buckingham Palace doggedly revisits Fred at the spa to beg that he conduct his cherished “Simple Songs” cycle for the Queen, for which Fred will receive a knighthood. Fred wants nothing to do with it, but won’t give a reason for his staunch refusal. It’s too personal. Fred’s justification contributes to the film’s elegiac climax with a delicate grace note.

Youth review

Writing his latest screenplay, entitled “Life’s Last Day,” with the help of a group of young collaborators, keeps Mick busy between dips in the sauna. He wants the film to be a “testament” but can’t articulate the object of his praise. He really just wants to celebrate himself. Mick has a casting ace up his sleeve in the guise of Hollywood diva Brenda Morel, played with caustic aplomb in a scene-stealing cameo by Jane Fonda. In just three short scenes, Fonda gooses the story with the juice it needs.

Youth” movie review: Paolo Sorrentino draws on trademark lush visuals – The  Denver Post

Aside from at least one woman they both dated in their youth, Fred and Mick share an in-law brotherhood. Fred’s daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) is married to Mick’s playboy son Julian (Ed Stoppard). Lena is left heartbroken after Julian tells her he is leaving her for another woman, Paloma Faith (playing a version of herself), an annoying pop singer celebrity with a reptilian brand of sex appeal. Mick is none to pleased with his son’s shenanigans. However, the breakup has a positive effect of bringing Fred closer to his daughter.


Sorrentino draws connecting meanings from unifying supporting characters such as Paul Dano’s quietly observant actor-character Jimmy Tree, who has been pigeonholed by a role he played as a robot in something called “Mister Q.” Jimmy’s preparations for his next role involve a public-space rehearsal performance of Hitler that is amusing as it is spot-on.

“Youth” is a perfectly tuned chamber piece that resonates in waves of humor, regret, lust, and thoughtful expression. Like Sorrentino’s last film “The Great Beauty,” it is a lushly composed film worthy of repeated viewings.


Not Rated. 118 mins. 

5 Stars


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April 22, 2015



Mafia movies have changed since Francis Ford Coppola’s Hollywood-epic “Godfather” trilogy. Matteo Garrone’s brilliant 2008 gangster picture “Gomorrah” was a take-no-prisoners look at how the mob in southern Italy abuses and enslaves its citizens, corrupts its culture, and poaches its natural resources. Now Francesco Munzi is taking a more personal approach, via Gioacchino Criaco’s novel about a decades-old rift reopened between rival “'Ndrangheta" mafia families in Calabria. As the world’s most influential criminal organization and one of its most lucrative (it brings in $72 billion annually) the 'Ndrangheta mafia far outweighs the more widely known Sicilian "Cosa Nostra" Mafia that has folded into the 'Ndrangheta.

The Barracas and Carbone families are connected by the murder of a Carbone padrone by the Barracas several generations earlier in the bucolic region of Africo Vecchio. Teenager Leo Carbone (Giuseppe Fumo) chafes under the yoke of sheepherder father Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane); he longs to join the family business with his Uncle Luigi (Marco Leonardi) in Milan. Leo sews a few wild oats by shooting up a local bar before leaving for Milan to seal his plan, hopefully with Luigi’s blessings. Little does the tough-minded Leo realize the imminent consequences that his thoughtless actions against the local club will have on his family’s relations with the Barracas clan. Leo’s ember of hostility will soon engulf his family.


The brilliance of “Black Souls” lies in its minimalist approach to elucidate the mafia mindset of intimidation and long-held grudges. This seemingly low-key picture provides a historic context of the dichotomy between the mafia’s past of traditional values and the sped-up expectations that the modern world demands. As much as Leo’s sensible father attempts to distance himself from the violence of his family members, he is just as apt to reach for a gun when circumstances seem to demand it. 

Francesco Munzi exerts a graceful restraint in the way he constructs the story (Munzi was a co-screenwriter), and how he frames the Italian landscape with a sense of dramatic vérité to reflect the impoverishment of the characters’ backgrounds. Munzi exemplifies the influence of the late Francesco Rosi, whose commanding use of Italian terrain contributed to the lasting effect of such majestic films as “Salvatore Giuliano.” The scrupulous Munzi also matches Rosi’s talent for casting naturalistic actors whose subtle performances leave indelible impressions that resonate with hostile silence. “Black Souls” hurts.

Not Rated. 103 mins. (A) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)

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November 13, 2013



Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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ColeSmithey.comA virtuosic cinematic achievement of epic proportions, Paolo Sorrentino’s formalized comment on modern-day Rome is a visual and satirical feast.

Taking cues from Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” the gloriously expansive film establishes Sorrentino-regular Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella, a veteran dilettante journalist of Rome’s celebrity and arts culture who has successfully insinuated himself as a member of the city’s elites.

Jep's claim to fame derives from a still-celebrated novelette [“The Human Apparatus”] he wrote as a young man. Jep is a sycophant through and though. His eye for style is cheapened by his worship of the false promise such affectations hold. As an updated version of the breezy character that Marcello Mastroianni played in “La Dolce Vita,” Jep is older and therefore wiser.

The occasion of Jep's 65th birthday gives cause for reflection. The nubile girl who first stole Jep’s heart when he was a virile young man haunts him as an object of desire and emotional motivation whose “great beauty” resonates with that of Rome’s ancient architecture and pretentious culture — even if much of that floats over abyss of abject corruption.


Sorrentino lays the foundation for his boldly extravagant film with a quote from Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s “Journey to the End of the Night.”

“Travel is useful, it exercises the imagination. All the rest is disappointment and fatigue.

Our journey is entirely imaginary. That is its strength.

It goes from life to death. People, animals, cities, things, all are imagined.

It’s a novel, just a fictitious narrative. Littré says so, and he’s never wrong.

And besides, in the first place, anyone can do as much. You just have to close your eyes.

It’s on the other side of life.”

Cinematographer Luca Bigazzi’s shifting camera unceasingly frames decorous compositions to simultaneously celebrate, provoke, and reveal layers of a dynamic culture unlike anywhere else in the world.


At once glamorous and impure, every social setting — be it a lavish party, a strip club, or a dinner with the Catholic Church’s 104-year-old patron Saint of poverty — every scene breathes with a painterly attention to detail toward capturing Rome’s beautiful and ethereal qualities.

Paolo Sorrentino is one of the few truly visionary filmmakers working today who utilizes the power of cinema to embrace and elevate an overflowing wealth of ideas, attitudes, and realities. I promise, you will be stuffed after seeing “The Great Beauty.”

Not Rated. 142 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

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