The Vore's Film staff selects the top best Italian movies of 2016 in cinema or on DVD or Netfix. Are Nanni Moretti, Paolo Sorrentino & Giuseppe Tornatore Italy's biggest directors? So at the 2014’s Academy Awards we finally saw a great new Italian film winning the Oscar for best foreign film again. About time, since the last Italian director who did so was Roberto Benigni with his sentimental but highly enjoyable La Vita é Bella in 1998. La Grande Belezza was truly a masterpiece, but I will elaborate more on that later. Hopefully Paolo Sorrentino put Italy back on the map as one of Europe’s (or the World’s) heavyweights in cinema, since we haven’t seen that many Fellini’s, Antonioni’s and Scola’s recently. Italy more or less dominated the best foreign film discourse from the 50’s up to the 80’s: between ’56 (the year the award was given for the first time) and ’81 an Italian film wasn’t nominated only four times. Besides, they still hold the record for receiving the biggest amount of foreign film Oscars: fourteen. Just to give you an idea. Those golden days may be over, but of course the Oscars can hardly be considered a great quality indicator of a nation’s film industry. It is way more interesting to take a look yourself at what Italy produced in recent years.
2010's best rated Italian movies out on DVD, Bluray or streaming on VOD (Netflix, Amazon).
Fuocoammare (Fire at sea) (13-02-2016, 116 minutes)
One of the most poignant and heartbreaking documentaries you will see this year. Fuoccoammare is a poetic account of the troubles the small Italian island Lampedusa (and Europe in general) is facing, as thousands after thousands desperate North African immigrants wash ashore.
A group of friends get together for what's supposed to be a nice dinner. As they set out, they invent a game: everyone has to share every text, whatsapp message or phone call they receive. They're all friends, so what do they have to hide for each other? A sly comedy about our times where everyone is connected all the time. Brilliant!
Rohrwacher’s second feature after her promising debut Corpo Celeste (2011) is a poetic, sundrenched portrait of an Italian family of bee-keepers and a coming-of-age story of a young girl at the same time. Through the eyes of the eldest daughter, we follow the family’s attempts to keep their heads above the water in a society that is undervaluing a traditional rural lifestyle more and more. Cinematographer Helene Louvart camerawork is outstanding in its elegance, use of color and simplicity.
A wealthy family about to fall apart has been the recipe for quite some decent drama films. With Human Capital, an adaptation of the eponymous American novel, director Paolo Virzi manages to add a fresh touch to the subgenre by telling the story of the destinies two families tied together by an unfortunate accident through the eyes of three family members. It’s impressive how Virzi puts the pieces of the puzzle together in the emotional climax which is both wry and satisfying.
Miele. It’s a thought provoking film and a promising debut, even though it has its flaws. Miele is a young woman who devotes her life to helping terminally ill people out who see no other way than committing suicide. When a new, physically healthy but deeply depressed ‘client’ asks for Miele’s help, she sees herself confronted with some moral difficulties. A touching film, backed by a great soundtrack (Caribou, Talking Heads, Shearwater and Duran Duran among others), which ultimately tends a little bit too much to sentimentalism.
Director Giuseppe Tornatore is back with his first film in English, after the disappointing Baarìa, a sentimental vehicle which can best be viewed as a two and a half hour olive oil commercial. La Migliore Offerta (The Best Offer in English) is a thrilling romantic drama about an eccentric art collector and auctioneer, Virgil Goodman, who falls in love with a girl who hires him to auction her deceased parents’ art collection. She doesn’t dare to show herself however, as she is suffering from a severe form of agoraphobia, and communicates exclusively behind a wall in her luxurious villa which is stuffed with art. Within time however, Virgil gains her trust and a passionate romance seems to commence…
Il Futuro, which is based on Roberto Bolaño’s novel Una novelita lumpen, is a film that is hard to pigeonhole without using impossible and ultimately empty labels like ‘magical-realist coming-of-age crime romance’. Anyway, the story evolves around Bianca and Tomas, who’ve just become orphans after their parents died in a car crash. The girl, who’s slightly older and thus has a stronger sense of responsibility, tries to cope with the situation the best she can, while she sees her brothers’ situation worsening as he befriends the wrong people. These ‘friends’, persuasive as they are, ask Bianca to help them rob an old, blind former actor (Rutger Hauer!) who lives alone in an isolated villa. Reluctant at first, Bianca is getting more and more attached to the old man and eventually unwilling to follow through with the initial plan
don´t really have something to add to the ever expanding euphoric discourse around this film. La Grande Bellezza is the ´Great Beauty´ indeed. A deeply melancholy picture about a once great writer, contemplating about his past life and ´beauty´ in the broadest sense of the word. A Felliniesque visual trip through modern day Rome with its artsy fartsy extravaganza, stuffed with beautifully composed scenes, tracking shots and impressive long takes, Sorrentino has proven himself as one the most gifted directors on earth. As you could have guessed, also our best Italian film of 2013.
Reportedly, La Corrispondenza is about a love affair between a professor and young woman. Plot-wise, Tornatore isn’t exactly discovering new grounds here, but given his reputation we’re still pretty excited to see this one.
Il Racconto dei Racconti (15-05-2015, 125 minutes))
If there is another Italian director, after Sorrentino, who has been getting lots of international attention than it is Matteo Garrone. Best known for the Italian gangster film Gomorra (2009), but equally impressive with 2012’s prophetic Reality (2012), Garrone is now coming with his first English language feature. The Tale of Tales is an adaptation of the famous book by Giambattista Basile, and it will be starring Vincent Cassel and Salma Hayek. It has been postponed from 2014 to 2015.