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Simone Spoladori (September 7, 2013)

"L'intrepido - A lonely hero" by Gianni Amelio and "Holy Gra", by documentary filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi, complete the Italian contingent in the main competition of Venice, making possible to draw a small balance


Wanting to sketch out an initial assessment, still hot, we must say very honestly that the average quality of the selection is significantly deteriorated in the second half of the festival .

In Any case, the Director Alberto Barbera and selectors did an amazing job in an historical moment as difficult as this, in which the appeal of the Venice festival is certainly less effective than in past years, surely for the reduction of the available resources, but also for the competition concomitant Toronto Film Festival and for the endemic crisis of Italian cinema, which fails to make driving force behind the event.

In this regard, a more thorough and reasoned discourse deserve the two Italian films that were presented in the last days of the festival , "L'intrepido - A lonely hero" by Gianni Amelio and "Holy Gra", by documentary filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi.
We begin by Amelio. The Calabrian director is the last Italian to have won the Golden Lion in 1998 with "The Way We Laughed". 15 years have passed, but unfortunately watching "L'intrepido - A lonely hero" seems to have spent a century. The plotline that is the basis of the film is actually very interesting: Antonio Pane is a middle-aged unemployed who tries to survive working as a substitute and he replaces, even for a few hours, people who have to be away from their jobs temporarily, a circle of "instant" works run by a shady owner of a sordid gym. The story takes place in Milan and the city is portrayed as a huge unfinished and open-air workyard, which literally crushes the characters as ants. Amelio tried the path of the fairy tale: his protagonist is an everyman that crosses the economic and social crisis in Italy and maintains a positive attitude and candid to the bitter end even in the hardest difficulty and he is the opposite of the two young characters, the son Ivo and the beautiful Lucia, the girl known by Antonio in a state competition, which instead appear lost, unbalanced, overwhelmed and unable to give a precise perspective to their lives.
So far, all right. The problem with this last effort of Gianni Amelio is that, unfortunately, just cause of the desire to remain " fairy tale ", the screenplay curls up on itself and crumbles so unforgiving. First, the dialogues are often unacceptable: apodictic as stolidly phrases "I am rooting for the fans", "tea should be drunk bitter", "hunger is a bad thing, instead the appetite helps", to mention only a few examples, are the effigy of the lack of naturalness and spontaneity of the film's dialogue, which sometimes even expire involuntary in ridiculous. Albanese, on which Amelio said he had sewn the film on, must fight like a lion to try to be credible as he pronounces lines often disconcerting. Secondly, the same narrative structure appears here and there marked by sensational gaps, many situations are sketched and left to themselves, some characters are mentioned or introduced and never recovered. Add to this, the ridiculousness of some " metaphors " as the name dell'everyman played by Albanese , pane, "bread ", for a simple man trying to earn his "daily bread", or the empty boxes of the shoes store. Now , we take a couple of conclusions.
1 ) Barbera himself said, before the start of the festival, that the quality of Italian products that have been submitted has been very low. Quoting him, «highly anticipated film also turned out to be lower than expected». It goes without saying that if this new very disappointing Amelio's movie represents the best of what has been submitted to the selectors, the situation is nothing short of alarming.
2 ) Amelio is, as mentioned, the last to have won the Golden Lion and its cinema has always been, like it or not, well above a certain quality standard, so I would not have expected a writing so embarrassing. If an author universally esteemed as he is, slides in this way, the situation is even more worrying.
3 ) "L'intrepido - A lonely Hero" proves once more that Italian cinema has a particularly widespread problem of "writing" rather than ideas. Who says that the narrative cues are always the same, he is wrong. It is the " way " in which stories are being conducted and in which the dialogues are written that have flattened down to a tragic TV mediocrity. Except for a few notable exceptions (from Sorrentino and Garrone...) , we live in an age of dramatic creative involution. Another side of this problem is that the discourse carried out by the writing of most Italian films seen in Venice, Amelio's movie in the first place, it is not able to speak to a foreign audience , being too tied to italian modes of expression and stylistic forms. Most of what we have seen in the side sections (such as "Il terzo tempo", or "Zoran", or "Piccola patria"...) confirms this trend emerging also in young director.
"Holy GRA" by Gianfranco Rosi deserves, at least in part, a speech to himself. We always start from what Barbera himself said, since the Rosi's film is a bit ' his bet, and that is: «given the state of Italian cinema, a documentary entered the main competion». It is signed by one of the most exciting and talented performers of this genre of our country (Collateral section Orizzonti awarded him for "Below the Sea Level" in 2008), but certainly not an heavyweight name. On the one hand, this is bet is won. because "Holy Gra " is the operation most intriguing and original of the trio in competition (in addition to Rosi and Amelio, " Via Castellana Flag " by Emma Dante ).  However, even the cinema of Gianfranco Rosi, in his first documentary on Italian ground , is inexplicably "infected " by the provincialism that I mentioned above and suddenly seems to "lose" that universality his earlier work possessed  (the mentioned "Below the Sea Level " and "El Sicario Room 164"). human kinds, genuine and folkloristic, which gravitate around the Grande Raccordo Anulare (GRA), a ring of 68 km of motorway around the capital, it is certainly curious, intense, sometimes also moving, but Rosi is never able to bring out the existential force of this population of freak who lives in this ahistorical liminal condition, and he fails to detonate their primitive purity: sometimes they are even mere specks provincial or regional, almost alays two-dimensional characters. "Holy GRA" is certainly a most successful film of "L'intrepido - A lonely Hero", but both are well anchored to the umbilical cord that prevents our cinema back to having an international feel and to getting success at international festivals.

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