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Posts Tagged ‘Paolo Sorrentino’

Filippo Scotti, Teresa Saponangelo, Tony Servillo

“HAND OF GOD” My rating: B (Netflix)

130 minutes | MPAA rating: R

First things first:  Whenever you get a chance to watch Toni Servillo in a movie — and I don’t care if it’s a cameo in a bad Italian slasher flick — jump at it.

Servillo may be the greatest living cinema actor.  Doesn’t matter the role…he just is.

In the goofy/rapturous “The Hand of God” Servillo once again teams up with writer/director  Paolo Sorrentino (“The Consequences of Love,” “Il Divo,” “The Great Beauty,” “Loro” and the Servillo-less “Youth”) to deliver a filmic memoir of Sorrentino’s boyhood.

Servillo isn’t the star of the show — in fact his character disappears halfway through — but even as member of an ensemble he oozes energy and life., electrifying everything and everyone around him.  

Set in Naples int he 1980s, “Hand…” is a two-part yarn.  The first is an almost Fellini-esque study of a roiling, raunchy Neapolitan family, a band of eccentrics so memorable and entertaining you may want to hang out with them forever.

Our protagonist is teenage Fabietto (Filippo Scotti), probably the most introverted member of his clan. Papa Saverio (Servillo) is a wise and witty jokester who approaches life with a wry grin.  Mom Maria (Teresa Saponangelo) is a live wire who peps up family reunions by juggling oranges. 

They’re such a perfect couple that we — like young Fabietto — are dismayed to learn that away from his family Saverio is a womanizer.

There’s also big brother Marchino (Marlon Joubert), an impossibly handsome kid who naively believes that good looks are all he’ll need for an acting career.  Accompanying his sibling to auditions, Fabietto gets an inkling of what the film biz (his future career) is all about.

There’s a load of wild-hair aunts, uncles and cousins swirling around the family…it’s like something out of “Amacord.”  

The most arresting of these is Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri), married to Saverio’s brother and oozing sexuality and neurosis in equal measure.  Fabietto has a huge crush on Aunt Patrizia (who doesn’t think twice about sunbathing nude in front of everyone). But he’s seen enough of her emotional and mental crackups to have his adolescent lust tempered by adult pity.

Luisa Ranieri

The film’s first half is a deep dive into plotless family dynamics, and it is often rudely, riotously funny.

Then tragedy strikes and the tone shifts dramatically. Young Fabietto finds himself working through grief and anxiety. He loses his virginity (not to a girl his age but to the dowager living in the upstairs apartment, who apparently sees him as a sexual charity case). 

Fabietto takes comfort in his soccer obsession and the drama of whether his team will be able to sign a premium player who can turn everything around.

And late in the film he has an all-night chat with a veteran movie director (real-life filmmaker Antonio Capuano, who was a mentor to young Sorrentino), who lays out the path to the kid’s career in movies.

“The Hand of God” is so specific in its depiction of people, places and situations that we understand instinctively that much if not all of the film was pulled from Sorrentino’s personal memories.  This is a movie that really feels lived in.

And the neat thing is that for a couple of hours we get to live in it, too.

| Robert W. Butler

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Youth“YOUTH”  My rating: A- 

124 minutes | MPAA rating: R

I had to watch “Youth” a second time to really appreciate it.

Glad I did.

As with his previous film, “The Great Beauty,” which was inspired by Fellini’s “La Dolce Vida,” the latest from filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino is inspired by (and often directly copies) Fellini’s “8 1/2.” My mistake the first time around was to see it first and foremost as an homage rather than a free-standing effort that playfully samples a great film from the past.

And then there’s the fact that this is about as subtle a movie as we’re going to encounter this holiday season — minimal plotting, zero action, maximum atmosphere. Do not see “Youth” if you’re tired or short-tempered or preoccupied.

Unfolding almost entirely at a posh hotel and spa in the Swiss Alps, the film centers on two old friends rapidly approaching 80.

As the film begins composer/conductor Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is being approached by an agent of Queen Elizabeth, who for Prince Philip’s birthday wants Ballinger to conduct a performance of his seminal work “Simple Songs.” Ballinger turns down the offer and the accompanying knighthood, telling the oily emissary that he is retired. Period.

In the same hotel veteran filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is working with five young writers to complete the script of his next — and penultimate — film.

Fred and Mick find plenty of time to hang out together. Not only is Fred’s daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) married to Nick’s son, but the two men have been friends for 60 years.  They used to compete for the same women; now they battle over who has the most uncooperative prostate and shakiest memory.

There are other celebs to rub elbows with, like the current Miss Universe (who shocks and delights the two old cronies by swimming nude) and an American movie actor  (Paul Dano) who quietly seethes because his fame rests almost entirely on a cheesy sci-fi flick in which he played a robot. (To stir things up he attends dinner made up and costumed as Adolf Hitler.)

Fred and Mick also amuse themselves studying on other guests, like the obese South American who was once the world’s best soccer player, a Tibetan llama who reputedly has powers of levitation, a small boy learning the violin by playing Fred’s “Simple Songs,” and a young girl who is vastly more advanced than her hovering and provincial mom.

The film even opens its arms to embrace the staff of the hotel, especially a nearly-mute young masseuse with a mouthful of orthodontics — she communicates with her fingers, not her tongue — and a bearded mountaineer who shows up at just in time to catch Lena when her marriage collapses.

(more…)

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