This gem of a film by Antonio Grimaldi has, sadly, been largely ignored outside Italy. Maybe the silly English title Bits and Pieces is partly to blame. Who wants to see a film called Bits and Pieces? Something like Blue Skies would have been better.
The obvious comparisons are with Robert Altman's Short Cuts and Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia (although Il cielo. predates the latter by four years). Grimaldi's achievement is superior to both those films, nor does it leave the unpleasant taste in the mouth that they do. Technically, it is more ambitious with 30 or so tiny stories fitting together like a mosaic. Grimaldi goes for width rather than depth. The overall effect is of seeing a year's instalments of a soap opera fast forwarded into two hours. Nevertheless, there is an intellectual satisfaction in spotting how the stories interrelate and in seeing characters from one story wandering around in the background to another. I don't usually like to watch films more than once but I got much more out of Il Cielo.. on a second viewing than on the first..
There are plums everywhere in this pie: Dario Argento's cameo as a man who prays to the Virgin Mary to beg her not to appear to him, the obnoxious dentist, the hard and soft traffic wardens, the gourmet workmen, the mercenary motor-cycle repairman, the failed CD salesman to name just a few. One leitmotif is people stopping to make calls at public phoneboxes, and this is only seven years ago. Now most people in Italy seem to go around with a mobile permanently clamped to their ear.
It is nice to see an Italian film where the sound is recorded live and not post-synchronised. If you are a student of Italian, you will enjoy the simple, colloquial dialogue and the excellent subtitles. I lost count of the number of ingenious translations of vaffanculo that they came up with. There are catchy songs in the opening and closing credits, also nicely translated. If only they could have done something about the title.
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