Monday, November 08, 2010

The Past is a Foreign Land

This was another unrelentingly sad, but well made movie. It starts at a party, which was a good sign, but its all down hill from there. Three toughs in suits come in, obviously have a bone to pick with one of the guests. He and another give these toughs a kicking: that's how Giorgio and Francesco meet. Giorgio is a law student, but what about Francesco? He takes Giorgio for a coffee, then to some card games, where Giorgio can't believe his luck: to get four Queens twice on one night, well that's too good to be true.

Francesco lets him on a little secret: he's been cheating and, now that he's tested Giorgio, wants them to be a team. So, they go out and win lots of card games, against some of the tough men of Bari (which explains who the guys were who were after Francesco earlier on), they live the good life, Giorgio drops further and further away from his law studies, hooks up with a woman he beat at cards, gets a bit distant from Francesco.

This makes it all the more surprising that Francesco agrees to have Giorgio along when he has to go to Spain, to expand his sphere of operations. They're sitting in the car, fuming rather than talking, but after a 1600 km road trip they seem to be best of mates again. Its while they're in Spain that things get dark and violent. I'd never trusted Francesco, he looks like a minor hoodlum (he's on the right):

Events in Spain are impossible to mention without major spoilers, but its these events which seem to be the most important in the movie. Although Giorgio is clearly having a great time with his new-found wealth, Francesco is a bit over it, wants more, and its not just the cocaine they've come to collect: there is also the cool waitress that they befriend. But just normal dating is a bit passe for Francesco as well: he needs to transgress. Giorgio is watching on: he needs to make a choice - go to her aid, sit back and enjoy his drink or take the same path?

Temptation is too much but proves to be a high price to pay: later, back in Bari, when he is accused of attacking a woman there, he says nothing, despite the rather heavy going over he gets from the cops. He's obviously seeking to expiate the guilt of what happened in Spain.


Giulia Doesn't Go Out at Night

This was the first of the 2010 Italian Film Festival movies I had a chance to see. It is not the most cheerful movie I've ever seen, in fact I came out feeling very sad.That's not to say its not a good movie, but it wouldn't suit someone seeking a light-hearted and funny romance. Guido is a novelist, there's a subsidiary story about his hope to win some big writing prize. The main story starts when his daughter decides she's bored with swimming lessons and, since they've been paid for, Guido takes over as pupil. So, yes, there's a fair amount of swimming.

His instructor is Giulia - she initially presents as a little stern, but she and Guido bond as he tries to do more than float. Of course, he's all "will you have coffee?" and she's all "I don't go out at night" - the reason is revealed so early in the movie that its not really a spoiler to share: she is in jail, for killing a man. The lover she left her husband and daughter to be with moved on, she killed him.

Italian prisons seem to be more enlightened than those with which I am familiar: Giulia is allowed out on day release to teach swimming and even has 45 days leave a year. Guido thinks he is doing the right thing when he tries to reunite Giulia with her daughter: it is something which has clearly oppressed Giulia for years but, well, things don't turn out so great.

There is one fun element to the movie: Guido tends to daydream, so there are whimsical little movies within the movie, stories he might write but never does. One featured a cute umbrella seller. Even these take on a darker tone: some of the characters start to inhabit Guido's real world, showing up in the swimming pool, for example, and then there's Giulia in these dream narratives.