16 April 2006 | Chris Knipp
This thought-provoking, informative movie about romance, acting, and film-making seems not to have traveled well, despite awards and nominations. It got some award nominations in Italy and a significant nomination in Berlin and the two actors, Luigi Lo Cascio and Sandra Ceccarelli, who've appeared together frequently before, have their fansbut also their enemies. "Lento noioso e pesante" a viewer posted on the Italian movie site FilmUpslow, boring, and heavy. It is that, at times, and at times gave me the feeling that I was either on drugs or having a very bad dream. It's so incestuously self-referential and claustrophobic it's chillingand numbing; but it's also a master class on what a scary convoluted experience it would be to have an affair with another actor while making a movie in which the two of you are having an affairin costume, in another century. What is real? Before the two shoot the last scene of the story based on La Traviata in which the girlfriend is dying and the rejected lover weeps over her deathbed, the actress has just told the actor that she is through with him and never wants to see him again. The writers and director take a very Italian and sentimental way out of this sad finale with a cute, upbeat coda, but the actor, Lo Cascio's character, who has told the actress earlier that he scorns actors who"really" cry in crying scenes, obviously is weeping "real" tears in the deathbed scene. The character, the modern day actor, that is, is constantly getting phone calls from an "admirer" who tells him his acting is worthless. And on FilmUp, sure enough, Lo Cascio himself gets comments about how talentless he is.
In fact, Lo Cascio and Ceccarelli perform acting gymnastics in this movie that will knock your eyes out and the beautiful and expressive Ceccarelli was nominated for the 2005 European Film Academy Best Actress Award for this performance. And yet, the movie is so obsessive that it can bore you to tears at times too, and what may doom it aside from its meta-linguistic focus on an art form is that basically it's a chick flick, a Cosmo tale about a sensitive and naive woman at the whim of a worldly, self-centered man. I can see why Jennifer and Brad broke up, after this. Not somehow a movie that makes your heart sing, but need-to-know information for any film buff.
Showing at the SFIFF 2006 four times at two venues, this would be a worthwhile choice for anyone who likes fairly serious mainstream European films that may not ever be showing in US theaters. And it should appeal to anyone who wants a look at the glamor and stress of film-making from an Italian perspective.