Franco Cristaldi

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Amarcord Review


Extraordinary
The problem with puberty, above all the sexual frustration and general malaise, is that you become an unavoidable know-it-all. It's an element of discovery: Whenever you discover something for the first time, you automatically think you have it over on everyone else, until you finally realize that everyone else figured it out before you or exactly when you did. Federico Fellini's Amarcord has a deep love for that feeling of discovery, of that brash cockiness, and realizes that nothing can really subdue this feeling. Not even World War II.

In a strange little town in Italy, a pack of boys, led by Titta (Bruno Zanin) live in the eccentric world of sex, family and war. Titta's ant-fascist parents are only the tip of the Iceberg. His uncle lodges himself in a tree and cries out to the heavens and anyone listening "I want a woman!" while his friends and him pee through tubes for pranks, take part in circle jerks, and fantasize about the local beauty, Gradisca. His father gets interrogated by Mussolini's soldiers to the point where he defecates himself, and the local shopkeeper, with a bust the size of most family sedans, gives him his first sexual encounter (presumably also the strangest he'll ever encounter). I'm leaving out the peacock, the speed racers, the nympho who lives by the sea, and the plucky narrator.

Continue reading: Amarcord Review

Divorce - Italian Style Review


Excellent
What do Freud, Last Year at Marienbad, Through a Glass Darkly, and That Touch of Mink have in common? No, they're not all films you've never seen, they all lost the Best Original Screenplay Oscar to Divorce - Italian Style in 1963.

The story is classic black comedy, as Marcello Mastroianni's Ferninando shuffles through his marriage to the loving -- but smothering (not to mention homely) -- Rosalia (Daniela Rocca). Ferdinando's wandering eye catches sight of Angela, his teenage cousin, whom he desperately desires... but as divorce is forbidden in 1960s Italy, what's he to do? Murder is the obvious answer.

Continue reading: Divorce - Italian Style Review

Cinema Paradiso Review


Excellent
In one of the more puzzling DVD reissues ever comes Cinema Paradiso: The New Version (note it's not called "The Director's Cut" -- in fact this is really the "old version," as the cuts were made to make the film more palatable to U.S. audiences), which takes a sweet two hour production and turns it into an overwhelming three hour movie, which is far more paradiso than anyone really needs. Frankly, the cuts were understandable. And it won Best Foreign Film at the 1989 Oscars... what more do you want?

After all, what was wrong with the short version? Never saccharine, this love affair with the movies is a simple film. Poor, young boy befriends older (yet uneducated) projectionist in his small Sicilian town, learns the ropes, and grows older and wiser with his pal by his side. Eventually, there's romance (no, not between these two). There's war. There's departure. It's like three coming of age stories in one! They're all well produced, subtle, and tender. Unless you truly have no heart, you can't help but enjoy the film.

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Amarcord Review


Very Good
Fellini's Amarcord is a loving portrayal of small-town life in 1930s Rimini, Italy just as he remembered it, from the perspective of a delinquent teenager. The film is full of oddball characters, busty shopkeepers, creepy schoolteachers, pompous priests, crazy family members, a trashy hooker, and of course, Il Duce. Our young hero and his friends rake the muck, naive of an impending WWII and without a care in the world. As such, it's the more fanciful and lighthearted first half of the film (obviously a big inspiration for some of Woody Allen's work) that works the best. By the time Fellini has a dwarf nun chasing an uncle up a tree, a fog-shrounded city, and a weeding reception in the middle of nowhere, the charm has worn off considerably.

Divorce - Italian Style Review


Excellent
What do Freud, Last Year at Marienbad, Through a Glass Darkly, and That Touch of Mink have in common? No, they're not all films you've never seen, they all lost the Best Original Screenplay Oscar to Divorce - Italian Style in 1963.

The story is classic black comedy, as Marcello Mastroianni's Ferninando shuffles through his marriage to the loving -- but smothering (not to mention homely) -- Rosalia (Daniela Rocca). Ferdinando's wandering eye catches sight of Angela, his teenage cousin, whom he desperately desires... but as divorce is forbidden in 1960s Italy, what's he to do? Murder is the obvious answer.

Continue reading: Divorce - Italian Style Review

The Red Tent Review


Very Good
Since they realized they were there, explorers everywhere have had a fascination with visiting the poles of the earth. By 1928, the North Pole had been well visited and documented by the likes of Peary and Amundsen, but Italian Umberto Nobile decided he wanted to head up there anyway. Only Nobile's crackpot idea was to go there in a blimp.

Strangely, because of Nobile's renown in working with Amundsen on his 1926 flight to the Pole, no one said this was a bad idea. One day after daparting, heavy wind ripped the blimp apart, stranding the crew on the Arctic ice, where they holed up in a makeshift red tent, waiting for aid to arrive. For a month they were presumed dead, until an amateur radio operator picked up a transmission. A massive rescue operation commenced, with Amundsen himself even getting in on the deal.

Continue reading: The Red Tent Review

The Name Of The Rose Review


OK
Franciscan and Benedictine monks are dispatched to a remote monastery to resolve a dispute over doctrine in The Name of the Rose. When William of Baskerville (Sean Connery) and his novice Adso (a very young Christian Slater) arrive, they find the discussions have been stalled by the death of a young, talented scribe. The resident monks are all atwitter, wringing their hands and worrying that the murder is a sign of the apocalypse. Their fervor reaches a fever pitch as more of their brethren begin to turn up dead, describing some choice passages of Revelations. So William fires up his logic, ceaselessly name checks Aristotle and begins to piece together a mystery that involves secret secular knowledge, a labyrinthine library, and a struggle between wild religious superstition and cold reason.

Based on Umberto Eco's dense and demanding bestseller, The Name of the Rose, is basically a love letter to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Unfortunately, the film version never passes up an opportunity to remind us of that fact.

Continue reading: The Name Of The Rose Review

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