The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

A case of colliding temperaments?

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“You’re breaking my heart! You’re breaking my heart!”

What kind of a line is that? Just asking.

I suppose the sort that you can find in an Italian movie.

Doors are slammed, people are yelling at each other in the stair house, they wave their arms, they hug passionately and they talk, talk, talk, or rather chatter and smatter so quickly that I don’t stand a chance to keep up.

I have no idea if this shows the real Italy since I’ve never been there, but it sure fits into the stereotype.

 On a couple of occasions the camera will finally rest for a brief moment, letting me catch up a little and comprehend what’s going on in- and outside the characters. But those moments are few and far between.  

 According to the labelling, I’m supposed to be watching a drama, or possibly a comedy.  But I don’t cry and I don’t laugh. And I can’t rid myself of the disturbing thought that those people I see aren’t real persons that I can care about. They’re just actors, spitting out their lines in a seemingly endless stream.

 La prima cosa bella tells the story about a middle aged, drug addicted, mopy and unshaved man (think a lighter, less charismatic and intelligent version of Dr House), who returns to his family to take farewell of his mother who is dying from cancer. In flashbacks we get to learn about the family history, most of it set in the 70sItaly. It takes the beginning when his mother wins a beauty contest and is thrown out on the street by a jealous husband. She tries to become an actor but ends up going from one man two another, since she’s just so beautiful, while trying her best to keep up the spirits in front of the children, who suffer from the chaotic lifestyle and the conflict between their father, their mother and their aunt. Anna ruins their lives, if so unintentionally. The question is: can they finally reach reconciliation at her death bed?

It sounds more heartbreaking and touching than it is. There was too much tell and too little show for my taste. A thought crossed my mind; maybe this has to do with cultural differences? I saw the movie in company with two French friends, and they were just as moved as I was indifferent. One of them remarked that a Scandinavian director would have told the same story in a different way, using fewer words and giving more time for the facial expressions and eyes to speak for themselves. Maybe she’s right.

As far as I understand it, this movie has been successful inItalyand was chosen as their submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category for the Academy Awards this year. It didn’t win though and I would have been highly surprised if it had. In my book it’s quite average.

La prima cosa bella (Eng translation: The first beautiful thing, Virzi, IT, 2010).  My rating: 3/5

Written by Jessica

August 2, 2011 at 1:00 am

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