Domenico Procacci

Domenico Procacci

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A Magnificent Haunting Review


Excellent

This offbeat ghost story draws us in with its sharp-edged comedy then gets under our skin by quietly shifting the lively humour into much darker emotion. Italian-Turkish filmmaker Ozpetek has mixed present-day Rome with World War II before (see the Hitchcockian drama Facing Windows), so this more comical approach sometimes feels uneven. But it's still hugely engaging.

At the centre is Pietro (Germano), an aspiring actor in his late 20s who's tired of living with his cousin Maria (Minaccioni). He can't believe his luck when he rents a grand apartment in a desirable neighbourhood. Although he quickly learns why it was such a good deal: there are eight ghosts living with him. After his initial terror subsides, he begins to get to know them, discovering that they are a 1943 acting troupe. Maybe they can help him get his career going, as well as his stale romantic life. And if he can work out why they're trapped in this flat, maybe he can help them move on.

This set-up allows Ozpetek to indulge in some hilarious slapstick, as the ghosts all have diva tendencies, while also delving into some much deeper drama due to Italy's troubling wartime past. Along the way, the film also makes pointed comments on the country's political and arts scenes, both past and present. But the focus is always on the characters themselves, and they're beautifully played. Germano is such a likeable guy that we can't help but fall for him and wonder why he has so much trouble finding someone to love.

Continue reading: A Magnificent Haunting Review

Loose Cannons [Mine Vaganti] Review


Good
Turkish-born Italian filmmaker Ozpetek branches into comedy with this borderline farce about an estabished family struggling to grapple with the issues of the 21st century. It's bright and smart and ultimately surprisingly moving.

Returning home to Lecce from his studies in Rome, Tommaso (Scamarcio) confides to his older brother Antonio (Preziosi) that he intends to tell his whole family that he's gay, partly to get out of his responsibilities in the family's pasta business. But at dinner that night, Antonio drops his own bombshell, leaving their parents (Savino and Fantastichini) and sister (Nappi) stunned.

Their grandmother (Occhini), however, isn't so surprised. Or shaken. Over the next weeks, the fallout continues as Tommaso befriends the sexy, mysterious Alba (Grimaudo) and neglects his boyfriend (Recano) back in Rome.

Continue reading: Loose Cannons [Mine Vaganti] Review

Gomorrah Review


Excellent
A mob film that's as far from the genre's standard operating procedure as could be imagined, Gomorrah paints a bleak and impressionistic picture of a society not just riddled with gangsters, but crippled by them. Not only are the gangsters shown here resolutely unglamorous, they're disloyal, cowardly, and frequently downright stupid; if there were any cops around in this world, these guys wouldn't last a day. But the Neapolitan towns the film sets itself in seem hardly the kind of place capable of mustering a vigorous law enforcement response to the random brutality and open-air drug markets. Instead, the society appears little more than a host body for the Camorra (the particularly thuggish Neapolitan version of the Mafia), existing only to provide more euros for the weekly take and bodies for the slaughter.

Based on the nonfiction book by Roberto Saviano, Matteo Garrone's film -- a huge hit in its native Italy and Gran Prix winner at Cannes -- doesn't try to establish any empathetic connection to its characters, rare for journalistic cinema of this kind. Instead, Garrone works overtime to distance the viewer from the sadistic toughs and clueless young recruits he portrays, which helps the film's 100-proof venom to go down straight.

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Dust (2001) Review


Terrible
Here's a uniquely bad movie that combines not one unwatchable story, but two!

It begins when a punk kid breaks into an old woman's house. The old lady overpowers him, and forces him to listen to a story. She even ends up in a hospital, and the kid follows her there to keep hearing this damn story.

Continue reading: Dust (2001) Review

The Last Kiss (2001) Review


Terrible
Watching The Last Kiss is one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've had in a movie theater since I worked at a multiplex and a girl I had a severe crush in high school saw me in my nerd uniform of a sleeveless sweater and clip-on tie. [Oh Pete, you rake, you! - Ed.]

At least that encounter lasted no more than a minute. For nearly two hours in The Last Kiss, aimless characters bitch, moan, and argue about how their lives stink. Doors are slammed, tears are shed, and immaturity is flaunted about like a homecoming banner. Almost every character deserves to have their head dunked in a bucket of ice water. The number of self-inflected drama fits and crying jags makes this movie feel more like a non-stop cry for attention, than an attempt at any kind of satisfying entertainment.

Continue reading: The Last Kiss (2001) Review

Eros Review


Grim
A triptych of short films, all on the subject of eroticism, sounds tantalizing, so it's too bad none of the shorts contained in Eros actually hits its mark. This despite the fact they were separately made by three of the most renowned directors of the past 40 years: Wong Kar Wai, Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni. What they manage in their individual shorts in Eros are but minor variations on themes and aesthetics already well explored in their own full-length films.

Wong Kar Wai's bluntly titled "The Hand" and set in his recurring milieu of early '60s Hong Kong, follows Zhang (Chang Chen), a humble tailor's apprentice, over his years-long infatuation with a beautiful socialite-turned-prostitute, Miss Hua (Gong Li). Kar Wai's treatment is aesthetically fussy, in keeping with his well-known style, but dramatically bland. There simply isn't much at stake here as the timorous Zhang must be content with the, ahem, hand jobs (see title) he receives all too rarely from the object of his infatuation. Now, hand job scenes (even in non-porno cinema) can be extremely erotic because of what they offer and what they only tease at (for a convincer, see the relevant scene in Michael Heneke's otherwise awful The Piano Teacher. Wow!). In any case, the segment's manually operated pseudo-erotica provide the only spike in an otherwise indolent story that never substantially conveys its central concern: Zhang's steady sexual awakening and his unshakeable devotion to an unavailable woman. Still, Kar Wai's fabulously crafted sound and imagery are both par for the course for this director and his world-class cinematographer, Christopher Doyle.

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Respiro Review


OK
We're meant to wonder if a brazen Valeria Golino is just eccentric or truly insane -- but Respiro is too slight to make us inquire too deeply. The film, which vaguely attacks tradition in rural Italy, focuses too much on Golino's nearly-naked kids and their antics than anything she does, to the detriment of our attention span, as the film takes an eternity to get going. Give it a whirl, but what might have been a sunny look at life on the rocky shores of Italy comes off as deeply depressing and a little confused.

Remember Me, My Love Review


OK
Italian Beauty? Even more so than in his previous film, The Last Kiss, Gabriele Muccino's story of despair and decay in an outwardly normal Roman household apes domestic forebears like American Beauty almost too closely. Still, to claim suburban ennui as a distinctly American experience would be hubris at its worst, so let's give Muccino his stab at the genre.

In this outing, all four family members are dropped right in the middle of their respective crises: Dad (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) is rekindling an affair with an old girlfriend (played by Monica Bellucci, who could possibly blame him?), while Mom (Laura Morante) is tentatively dipping a toe into the world of acting. Sis Valentina (Nicoletta Romanoff) is the proto-teen who hates everything and dresses like a whore -- and she's trying to become a dancer on TV... and what good could come of that? Then there's brooding Paolo (Silvio Muccino, Gabriele's kid brother and a regular in his films), who can't score with the girls and seems on the verge of suicide from frame one.

Continue reading: Remember Me, My Love Review

The Last Kiss Review


Terrible
Watching The Last Kiss is one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've had in a movie theater since I worked at a multiplex and a girl I had a severe crush in high school saw me in my nerd uniform of a sleeveless sweater and clip-on tie. [Oh Pete, you rake, you! - Ed.]

At least that encounter lasted no more than a minute. For nearly two hours in The Last Kiss, aimless characters bitch, moan, and argue about how their lives stink. Doors are slammed, tears are shed, and immaturity is flaunted about like a homecoming banner. Almost every character deserves to have their head dunked in a bucket of ice water. The number of self-inflected drama fits and crying jags makes this movie feel more like a non-stop cry for attention, than an attempt at any kind of satisfying entertainment.

Continue reading: The Last Kiss Review

Dust Review


Terrible
Here's a uniquely bad movie that combines not one unwatchable story, but two!

It begins when a punk kid breaks into an old woman's house. The old lady overpowers him, and forces him to listen to a story. She even ends up in a hospital, and the kid follows her there to keep hearing this damn story.

Continue reading: Dust Review

The Bank Review


Extraordinary
Australians don't have much faith in their financial institutions at all. That explains all the beer drinking and the Abba.

The Bank plays out like a tribute to the great master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, complete with a string-heavy soundtrack. The story follows an intricate game of stock speculation, personal vendettas, paranoid delusions, and computer hacking within the corporate world of financial institution Centrabank. The company has recently hit some rough spots and CEO Simon O'Reilly (Anthony LaPaglia) -- an arrogant, cold, bastard of a businessman -- spends most of his days closing branches, laying people off, and getting heat from the board. To relieve the pressure, Simon hires math genius Jim Doyle (David Wenham) to help predict the stock market gyrations and thus put the bank back in the black. Of course, Simon knows Jim's software could not only save Centrabank's bottom line but will also deliver financial omnipotence to its owner.

Continue reading: The Bank Review

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