Path Alias: 

IFF: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

(Ieri, oggi, domani)
(1963, 119 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In Italian with English subtitles
CAST Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Adolfo Giuffré, Agostino Salvietti


Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 1964 Academy Awards®, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is a sparklingly original comedy that casts Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren in three different stories set throughout Italy.

In Naples, they are poor but resourceful, selling black market cigarettes on the streets. In Milan, Loren is costumed in Christian Dior and debates her preference for a Rolls Royce or her husband. And in Rome, Mastroianni is an industry scion who helps Loren’s prostitute set a wavering priest back onto the spiritual plane. This episode features Sophia’s famous striptease, which was recreated 30 years later in Robert Altman’s Ready To Wear. Witty and unforgettable, this gem from master filmmaker Vittorio de Sica (Two Women, Marriage Italian Style) is picture-postcard beautiful and effortlessly hilarious.

IFF: The Landlords

(Padroni di casa)
(2012, 90 mins)
In Italian with English subtitles
CAST Elio Germano, Valerio Mastandrea, Gianni Morandi, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi


Equal parts drama, comedy and thriller, The Landlords is a riveting film from actor-turned director, Edoardo Gabbriellini (I Am Love) with a sensational cast including legendary real-life singer Gianni Morandi making a return to the big screen after 40 years.

Cosimo (Valerio Mastandrea) and Elia (Elio Germano) are two young brothers dreaming of success in the construction business. They travel from Rome to a remote Apennines mountain village where they have been contracted to rebuild a villa for the retired singer Fausto Mieli, a divisive local figure who is planning a comeback concert.

With their natural big city arrogance, Cosimo and Elia draw hostility from the locals, and in particular the male population. Tensions are further heightened as a young local woman, Adriana (Francesca Rabbi), flirts with Elia and dreams of running away with him.

Even in the film’s idyllic mountain setting there is a sense of foreboding throughout, as the conflict between outsiders and villagers subtly builds to a climax with repercussions for the whole community.

IFF: Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

(Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto)
(1970, 115 mins, DCP)
In Italian with English subtitles
CAST Gian Maria Volonté, Florida Bolkan, Gianni Santuccio, Orazio Orlando


The provocative Italian filmmaker Elio Petri’s most internationally acclaimed work is this remarkable, visceral, Oscar-winning thriller. Petri maintains a tricky balance between absurdity and realism in telling the Kafkaesque tale of a Roman police inspector (a commanding Gian Maria Volonté) investigating a heinous crime—which he himself committed. Both a compelling character study and a disturbing commentary on the draconian government crackdowns in Italy in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Petri’s kinetic portrait of surreal bureaucracy is a perversely pleasurable rendering of controlled chaos.

"A provocative political thriller that is as troubling today as when it came out in the 1970s." Kenneth Turan, LA Times

"The movie survives beautifully both as an elegant thriller and as a study of the twisted infantilism that shapes the fanatic heart." Ella Taylor, LA Weekly

"Its portrait of a loner and his lusts comes up frighteningly fresh, and the whole conceit would collapse without the muscular, rousing presence of Gian Maria Volonté in the central role. He, as much as Petri, hauls the movie into the realms of Kafka." Antony Lane, New Yorker

IFF: A Perfect Family

(Una famiglia perfetta)
(2012, 120 mins)
In Italian with English subtitles
CAST Sergio Castellitto, Marco Giallini, Francesca Neri, Claudia Gerini


Leone (Sergio Castellitto) is a very wealthy, very lonely man. He makes the decision to create a family Christmas by writing a script and hiring professional actors to play different family members. The comedian Fortunato (Mark Giallini), his wife Carmen (Claudia Gerini), the old Rosa (Ilaria Occhini) and young Sun (Carolina Crescentini), Moon (Eugenia Costantini) and Peter (Eugenio Franceschini), are the cast of the ramshackle company who, when in the presence of Leone, play their parts. However, when alone they become themselves again, expressing their own thoughts and feelings about their real lives and this absurd project which they have agreed to participate in. It is not an easy task, with Leone’s constant mood-swings disturbing his own script and forcing the actors to improvise. To complicate things further, he threatens to not pay if proceedings do not develop in an acceptable way. The unexpected arrival of Alicia (Francesca Blacks) causes a serious disruption, throwing the script into a disorder that will ultimately make or break the strange family unit.

IFF: The Flowers of St Francis

(Francesco, giullare di Dio)
(1950, 83 mins, 35mm)
In Italian with English subtitles
CAST Aldo Fabrizi, Arabella Lemaitre, brother Nazario Geraldi, Father Roberto Sorrentino, brother Nazareno


When Cardinal Bergoglio became Pope Francis last year, it was an expression of the humility and love he admired in Saint Francis of Assisi - which also happens to be the subject of this beautiful, sweetly spiritual and unexpectedly whimsical film written by Federico Fellini along with the pioneer of neo-realism, Roberto Rossellini, who also directed.

The film is based on two books, the 14th-century novel Little Flowers of St. Francis and The Life of Brother Juniper, both of which relate the life and work of St. Francis and the early Franciscans. Little Flowers is composed of 78 small chapters. The book as a whole is less biographical and is instead more focused on relating extravagant tales of the life of St. Francis and his followers. The movie follows the same premise, focusing on nine of vignettes, or chapters. Each chapter is composed in the style of a parable, and, like parables, contains a moral theme.

Monks from the Nocera Inferiore Monastery played the principal roles. Playing St Francis is a Franciscan brother, Nazario Gerardi (uncredited). The only professional actor in the film is Aldo Fabrizi, who had worked with Rossellini on Rome Open City, and who plays the tyrant of Viterbo.

Although contemporary reviews were poor, Pier Paolo Pasolini said that it was "among the most beautiful in Italian cinema", an expression echoed by Francois Truffaut, who called it "the most beautiful film in the world."

“I’ve never seen the life of a saint treated on film with so little solemnity and so much warmth.” Martin Scorsese

IFF: Senso

(1954, 123 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In English
CAST Alida Valli, Fraley Granger, Heinz Moog, Rina Morelli, Christian Marquand


Set in Venice and Verona on the verge of Garibaldi’s expulsion of the Austrians in the 1860s, this was Count Luchino Visconti’s third film, and his first in colour. It marked a complete departure from the working class milieu of the director’s earlier films, Ossessione (1942) and La Terra Trema (1948). Nevertheless, Senso’s overt theatricality is not so different from the extravagant passions in the former, and it is no less "authentic" for its sumptuous aristocratic setting (the director apparently insisted on daily fresh cut flowers in every room on the set, whether or not they would be filming there).

Alida Valli is the Countess Livia Sepieri, a Garibaldi supporter who intercedes on her cousin’s behalf when he suicidally challenges an Austrian officer to a duel. Lt Franz Mahler (Farley Granger) characteristically ducks out of the fight. A handsome, unprincipled charmer, Mahler seduces the Countess, who will recklessly betray her husband, her honour and even her country for his love.

With screenplay credits for both Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles among six writers in total, Senso is a distinctly high class melodrama. Eyes flashing, teeth bared, Valli seems barely able to credit her own actions as she flings caution to the wind and stakes everything on a feckless character who makes no bones about his own cowardice. (The film was actually retitled The Wanton Countess for its belated US release.) Fraley Granger is even better, especially in the big climactic scene where he lets rip with his self-loathing. Similarly unbalanced, sadomasochistic relationships recur in Visconti’s later films, especially The Damned (1969), and Death in Venice (1971), but neither quite matched the ferocity displayed here.

Senso begins at the opera, and Anton Bruckner’s score punctuates every dramatic turning point with an operatic thundercrack. "I like opera very much, but not when it happens off-stage," the Countess remarks, as she tries to dissuade Mahler from taking up her cousin’s challenge. Italy’s most renowned director of operas, Visconti clearly believed otherwise.

IFF: Mr. Volare

(Volare: La grande storia di Domenico Modugno)
(2013, 131 mins, DCP)
In Italian with English subtitles
CAST Giuseppe Fiorello, Kasia Smutniak


Domenico "Mimmo" Modugno has barely outgrown his childhood when he leaves a small village in Southern Italy to make his fortune as an actor in Rome. He ends up staying in a homeless shelter, singing at downtown bars to survive. His strong Southern accent and other misadventures will change his dream to become an actor and lead him to choose music over cinema. His song "Nel blu dipinto di blu" (better known as "Volare") will receive two Grammys with sales over 22 million copies, and will represent Italy in the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest. "Volare" will revolutionize the Italian music scene of the 60s, becoming the soundtrack of a country now aiming for the sky.

WINNER: Audience Choice Award, Europeon Film Festival, Toronto 2013

IFF: Passione

(2010, 90 mins, 35mm)
In English, Italian with English subtitles
FEATURING John Turturro, Max Casella, Lina Sastri


"A beautifully structured and photographed film, John Turturro’s rapturous Passione offers a vibrant exploration and celebration of Neapolitan music in all its grit and glory, presenting 23 musical numbers that encompass a millennium’s worth of influences.

Turturro observes that Naples has been invaded by Arabs, Normans, France, Spain and the U.S. and points out that it has survived volcanic eruptions, wars, crime, poverty and neglect. For Turturro the place and the music are one, and he embraces both with love and respect.

Neapolitan music is all-encompassing in subject matter. There is a sly, acrid take on the World War II-era pop tune "Pistol Packin’ Mama"; the gaunt, tattooed Pietra Montecorvino sings defiantly of a prostitute’s life, and later of a mother losing track of her child during a Feast of San Gennaro celebration. A Tunisian émigré to Italy, M’Barka Ben Talib sings a molten "O Sole Mio" to a calypso-like beat. It’s like hearing the old standard for the first time.

In Naples, Turturro has certainly found what he says James Brown called a "hot spot" for music." Kenneth Turan, LA Times

IFF: Terraferma

(2012, 88 mins, 35mm)
In Italian with English subtitles
CAST Filippo Pucillo, Donatella Finocchiaro, Beppe Fiorello, Mimmo Cuticchio, Claudio Santamaria


A political powder keg sparks intense drama in Emanuele Crialese’s tale of working class Sicilians. On this occasion, Crialese’s protagonist is Ernesto (Mimmo Cuticchio), an old-fashioned fisherman on an island that’s quickly turning into a tourist trap. Happening upon an imperiled boatload of African refugees, he selflessly rescues a handful of passengers and hides them from the authorities. Meanwhile, Ernesto’s daughter-in-law (Donatella Finocchiaro) and grandson (Filippo Pucillo) agonize over the potential repercussions of harboring illegal immigrants until one of them is driven to commit a horrendous crime.

"Crialese is a sentimentalist at heart, but a fine one, and his compassion for the wretched of the earth is thrillingly amped by the movie’s ecstatic imagery. Like his neo-realist forebears before him, the director turns everyday activities and furtive acts — tending to a rotting boat, beating desperate refugees away from a tiny vessel, the tender ablutions of those same refugees on the shore — into a theater of danger, cruelty and sensual delight." Ella Taylor, NPR

"A stirring commentary on our better angels." Gary Goldstein, LA Times

Francis Ha

(2012, 86 mins, DCP)
CAST Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Michael Esper, Grace Gummer
Classification: 14A


Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig - who also cowrote the script), is a kind of new millennial Annie Hall in all her klutzy, kooky glory: a young woman about town, a dancer who is beginning to realise she may not have what it takes, a single gal in love with who she is when she’s with her flat-mate, Sophie (Mickey Sumner).

When Sophie announces she’s moving in with her fiancé Frances is devastated. But she lands on her feet, moving in with hipster guys Lev (Adam Driver) and Dan (Michael Esper), and making a solid attempt to recreate her Sophie-rapport with the latter. Alas, Frances cannot afford to keep up her share of the rent, a hoped for job does not materialize, and her already frail sense of self-esteem begins to fracture.

Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale; Greenberg) is just at the very top of his game here. This is what a real director can do: bring authentic characters and situations to vibrant comedic life with minimal set up or fuss. Shot in gorgoues black and white, Frances Ha is superbly well-observed. It never rings false, never mis-steps, and at the end of it you may not be quite certain what it is that you have seen, but you will know that is has struck something true in your heart, something about being young and vulnerable and not quite sure of yourself yet, and about how even when you think they’re breaking you, hard times have a way of making you who you are meant to become.

"An irresistibly lovely, melancholic acknowledgment that love is impossible, and that the more candid a young woman is, the less eligible she becomes in the standard romantic sweepstakes… Frances Ha also marks the rare instance in which an actress has the perfect role at the perfect time. Ms. Gerwig’s work here is fragile, delicate, subject to bruising; something that could wither under too much attention. Perhaps Ms. Gerwig is the greatest actress alive. And maybe Frances Ha is just the ghost orchid of independent cinema." John Anderson, Wall Street Journal

"There’s an optimism and an empathy in “Frances Ha” that feels genuine and earned.The plot doesn’t build to a gigantic, sweeping climax, but the understated final moments made me happier than any other filmgoing experience I’ve had all year." Alonso Duralde, The Wrap