Cinema Italiano 2014

“We Have a Pope”

2011’s We Have a Pope (Habemus Papam) poses an interesting scenario: what if the newly elected Catholic Pope has a panic attack and flees the Vatican before taking on the job?

This comedy/drama, written and directed by Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti, is part social commentary and part human drama. It tells the story of Cardinal Melville (played by famous French actor Michel Piccoli), a humble man of God just doing his duty at the papal conclave after the passing of the beloved (and now canonized) Pope John Paul II. When it turns out that he is the one elected by the College of Cardinals to be the next pope, Melville immediately turns to feelings of his own inadequacy, self doubt, and apprehension about taking on the incredible burden, particularly at his advanced age. His indecision causes him to literally run away from the Vatican and roam the streets of Rome in street clothes as he tries to figure out which steps to take with the remainder of his life.

Director Moretti displays his own views in the film about the constant associations in Italy between religion and the media. He also juxtaposes the narrative of the film with a volleyball tournament between the cardinals while they wait to hear from the absentee pope along with the play “The Seagull” by Anton Chekov (Melville runs into a group of actors in Rome getting ready to put on the play). While “The Seagull” might seem an odd choice, its themes of unhappy and unsatisfied people and the element of human folly involved capture Melville’s thought processes and, most importantly, his humanity.

Although the film’s realistic portrayal of many sites within the interior of the Vatican (the Sistine Chapel, etc.) look real, the scenes were actually shot on sets created at the famed Cinecittà Studios in Rome.

It was fun to see some current Italian cinema, particularly this well-made and thought provoking film. We Have a Pope is available to rent on Amazon Instant Video.

Michel Piccoli in 'We Have a Pope' (2011)

Michel Piccoli in ‘We Have a Pope’ (2011)

Cinema Italiano 2014


Gabriele Ferzetti and Monica Vitti in 'L'avventura' (1960)

Gabriele Ferzetti and Monica Vitti in ‘L’avventura’ (1960)

The 2014 Italian film festival continues, this time with director Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 classic Italian art film L’avventura (The Adventure).

When wealthy but disillusioned Anna (played by Lea Massari) goes missing while on a yacht trip in the Mediterranean, her lover Sandro (played by Gabriele Ferzetti) and best friend Claudia (played by Monica Vitti in her feature film debut) try to find her. In the process, they find strong feelings for each other, too.

Shot in black and white and employing a minimalist style, the film was groundbreaking in the use of cinematography and visual imagery to convey human emotion. The Criterion Collection DVD (which I rented from Netflix) has a wonderful commentary track provided by media arts scholar Gene Youngblood. He explains this about the visuals in L’avventura:

“Antonioni’s great achievement was to put the burden of narration almost entirely on the image itself, that is, on the characters’ actions and on the visual surface of their environment. He uses natural or manmade settings to evoke his characters’ state of mind, their emotions, their life circumstances. We learn more about them by watching what they do than by hearing what they say. We follow the story more by reading images than we do by listening to dialogue. The settings are not symbolic or metaphoric—they are extensions, manifestations, of the characters’ psyches. Physical landscape and mental landscape become one.”

The film’s imagery shows Antonioni’s view of the impossibility of human relationships; that people are like islands, and that modern life has created empty people with empty lives. While the character of Claudia appears to have some moments of clarity as she takes the journey to self knowledge, the other sad sacks in the film are like the desolate island where Anna disappears in the first place. And with Sandro, the oft-used statement that “men are pigs” is an understatement in his case.

If you’re up for a cerebral, visually stunning, slow moving, but thought provoking cinema adventure yourself, give L’avventura a looksie.


Thoughts on Movies

Happy 25th Anniversary to Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park

You all know that I love Disney theme parks. Disney’s Hollywood Studios park (originally known as the Disney-MGM Studios park until 2008) located at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is celebrating its 25th anniversary today. I first visited this park in 1992 and completely fell in love with its concept, scope, scale, and design. It was like a Disneyland park created as a love letter to the movies with a grand movie palace serving as its castle and centerpiece.

Here’s a pre-opening day image of the park from the Disney Parks Blog.

Image © Disney

Image © Disney

And here’s a shot of the glorious Chinese Theater, a replica of the original Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California, which is still today the ultimate movie palace.

The Chinese Theater (the park's  "castle")

The Chinese Theater (the park’s “castle”)

The park has tremendous potential but continues to struggle due to many factors, including Walt Disney World’s unwillingness to spend the money necessary to make some much needed changes and upgrades to the park’s attractions. One of the things I hate most about the current park is the giant “Sorcerer Mickey” hat (with a pin store underneath it, of all things) that was plopped in front of the Chinese Theater (the park’s “castle”) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney’s birth in 2001. Well, the anniversary promotion/celebration came and left and, 13 years later, the hat is still wrecking the glorious vistas that once were in place.

Who wants to look at the beautiful and perfectly proportioned Chinese Theater when you can look at this?

Who wants to look at the beautiful and perfectly proportioned Chinese Theater when you can look at this?

Since the Walt Disney World team is probably never going to get rid of this egregious structure, I’m just trying to come to terms with it. In fact, here are some ideas that I came up with that Walt Disney World can use in the future for the structure.

Idea 1: Put a giant cutout of Duffy the Disney Bear on the hat.

Idea 1: Put a giant cutout of Duffy the Disney Bear on the hat.

Idea 2: Celebrate Walt Disney World's My Magic+ with the world's largest MagicBand!

Idea 2: Celebrate Walt Disney World’s My Magic+ with the world’s largest MagicBand!

Idea 3: Celebrate the group that put the hat there in the first place...

Idea 3: Celebrate the group that put the hat there in the first place…

Well, enough of that cynical gibberish… My sincere hope is that Walt Disney World guests will be able to enjoy a view of the Chinese Theater again someday that is free of the henious giant Sorcerer Mickey hat (and that the park’s attraction roster will get some TLC, too).

A guy can hope, right? (Image © Disney)

A guy can hope, right? (Image © Disney)

Final image also from the Disney Parks Blog.