_ The Italian job
After the success of two French Film Festivals, co- directors Allan Hunter and Richard Mowe are looking to repeat their winning formula with Italian movies, as Thom Dibdin finds out.
Force Italia has taken on pejorative connotations with the rise and rise of the Italian political Right, but the Italian ﬁlm industry is also once again becoming an international force. if Scotland's forthcoming Italian Film Festival is anything to go on. And the reference can in no way be said to be depreciative.
The baker‘s dozen of ﬁlms being shown at the Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Filmhouse over the next week indicate a healthy ﬁlm culture in Italy. able both to reflect on the serious political problems in that country and provide nail—bitineg populist
entertainment. This is a far cry frorn the
sacchzuine nature of ﬁlms such as Cinema Paradiso and the ()scar- winning Mediterraneo. which have exempliﬁed Italian cinema on Scottish screens in recent years.
‘()ver the last few years, there's been a real emergence of a younger generation of Italian ﬁlmmakers.‘ says Allan Hunter. co-direetor of the
festival. ‘They seem to want to ﬁnally address some of the social and political ills that beset Italy and make dramas out ofthat, which is where the likes of Ricky Tognazzi come in. Also. there is the generation of ﬁlmmakers who, like Giuseppe Tornatore who made Cinema Paradiso. have had commercial successes that have travelled outside |taIy.'
Tognazzi, who will be visiting the festival to present his three ﬁlms as director, is one of the younger generation capable of combining populism with politics. As he says, ‘My generation is showing that Italian cinema is alive and capable oftelling stories about people that you can identify with.‘ Son of Ugo Tognazzi, the proliﬁc actor who portrayed Renato in La Cage Aux Fol/es, he started his ﬁlm career in acting before directing
it a: ‘ Fliﬂrt Of The burocen Piccolo Equii'oci (Little Misunderstandings) in 1989.
His second ﬁlm, Ultras, is a hard- hitting examination of football hooligans. La Seorta (The Escort) is a gripping thriller which has generated both controversy and box ofﬁce success in Italy. Inspired by the real story of a magistrate who went from northern Italy to clean up the Maﬁa stronghold ofTrabani in Sicily. it uses the political and emotional awakening of his guards to give depth to what could have been a rather predictable ﬁlm.
Another standard bearer for the new generation is Aurelio Grimaldi, whose La [)iseesa Di Acla A F loristella (The Descent of Acla ) examines child exploitation in the Sicilian sulphur mines. Meanwhile, the more populist end of ltalian cinetna is represented by
Carlo Carlei's La Corsa Dell ' lnnocente (The Flight of the Innocent), which comes complete with the tag line ‘The Italian answer to The Fugitive'. Not surprisingly, Carlei has been snapped up by Hollywood and is now signed to direct a John Cohen novel. to star Matthew Modine. for Columbia.
The older generation of directors are also present. Lina Wertmuller who. until .lane Campion. was the only women to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Director, has two ﬁlms at the festival. Sabato, Domenica E Lunedi (Saturday. Sunday And Monday) provides a ﬁtting vehicle for Sophia Loren who, at 60, gives the ﬁnest performance of her later years. Francesco Rosi returns at 7 l, to direct James Belushi and Mimi Rogers in Dimenticare Palermo (To Forget Palermo). Shot in a gritty, documentary style, it has created a furore in ltaly for supposedly advocating the legalisation of drugs, although it is rather a succinct parable of a corrupt society on the ropes.
No Italian ﬁlm festival would be complete without a ﬁlm by the late. great, Frederico Fellini. Unfortunately his two last ﬁlms were unavailable for the festival, but Giulietta Degli Spiriti (Juliet ofthe Spirits) provides a ﬁtting tribute to both the director and his wife Guilietta Masina who takes the lead role and who died earlier this year. It will be presented with a talk by ﬁlm critic Yvonne Tasker on the director‘s life and work.
The Italian Film Festival runs at the OFT and the F ilmhouse front Fri 22—Fri 29. See Film index and listings for details.
_ What, no
While the last year alone has seen Jane Campion’s The Piano collect garlands aplenty and box office success across the globe - just the latest in a string of admired Antipodean offerings dating back to breakthrough mid-70s exports like Peter Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock and Bruce Beresford’s The Getting Of Wisdom - the notion of an actual Australian Film Festival such as we’re about to see at the Filmhouse is the kind of event that would have been inconceivable a mere 25 years ago. Amazing as it might seem, but if you flick back to 1969, you’ll find not one single movie production company in the whole of Australia and no government funding apparatus in place to help aspiring feature filmmakers.
With this in mind, the achievements of Australian talent ever since - people like Weir, Beresford, Canpion, George Miller, Gillian Armstrong, Philip lloyce et al — seem all the more remarkable, yet the forthright public relations imperative which has put together the current touring package of recent Aussie movies is hardly unrelated to the moving governmental
force which built the Australian film industry from scratch in the first place.
It was the Canberra authorities at the highest level, for instance, who established both the state funding body of the Australian Film Commission and the Australian Film and TV School’s training ground - essential institutions for a movie- making infrastructure - and then pointed the newly-created regional film financing offices towards support for those ‘quality’ undertakings that would better project the confidence and diversity of the national culture on the global stage. This was the background for the body of Australian
sponsored by BAC AR DI BLACK
‘classics’ that put the country on the movie map - Beresford’s Breaker Morant, Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career, Weir’s Galllpoll among them - films which simultaneously, however, established a reputation for a kind of safe middlebrow sensibility which partly remains to this day.
Jointly sponsored by the AFC and a certain amber nectar-producing brewery, the current selection of Australian output includes Anne (Celia) Turner’s disappointingly routine literary costumer Hammers Over The Anvil, John Power's portrait of an accused lfazi war criminal Father (with Max Von Sydow In the central role), and Ebsen Storm’s attempt to
channel white man’s guilt into a standard police procedural in the dreary Deadly - none of which display the kind of individual cinematic vision that mark out a Jane Cmnplon, or indeed a Vincent Ward, as a special sort of film artist. Certainly The Piano and Ward's Map Of The Human lleart (both of them Australian-funded but written and directed by low leaianders) display a facility for the grand gesture and a willingness to expand on the available repertoire of filmic form that’s not always so prominent in the work on view in the festival, with the notable exception perhaps of Kevin lucas’s fever-pitched contemporary opera adaptation, Black lliver.
Overall, there's still the sense that this selection contains the films a national body like the AFC reckons we foreigners should be seeing - whether it’s the launty fluff of David Eiflck's extremely enjoyable 503 teen reminiscence love In limbo, or the revisionist ghost stories of Aboriginal woman director Tracy Aloffat’s flawed debut Bedevil. There may be a darker, more downbeat Australia on view down under, but for the moment, though not unlmpresslve in its thematic scope or the generally high production standard of the material, this remains the official version. (Trevor Johnston)
The Australian Film Festival runs from Fri ifs—Thurs 5 at the Edinburgh Flhhouse.
The List 22 April—5 May 1994 27