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

“Caro diaro”

Ciao tutti! (Hello all!) This year, one of my movie watching projects is to view one Italian movie a month (I’m getting a bit of a late start, I know). I lived in Rome and other cities in central Italy for two years while serving a religious mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). The experience instilled in me a love of Italian people, food, and culture. I hope you might consider watching some of the these films, too.

First up in my “Cinema Italiano” (Italian cinema) project is Caro diaro (Dear Diary), a 1993 semi-autobiographical comedy written and directed by Nanni Moretti (who is also the film’s star). The film is a interesting view in Moretti’s life as an Italian and as a human being. The narrative is separated into three distinct “chapters,” each of which recount a series of experiences that Moretti has had in his own life, including living in and observing life in modern day Italy, and surviving cancer along with his difficult and prolonged experience of trying to get an accurate diagnosis.

The film, to me, serves as a photograph of modern Italian life (or I guess more accurately, life in Italy during the 1990s). Perhaps my favorite “chapter” in the film is the one where Moretti rides his Vespa all over Rome and outlying Ostia. The camera just follows him from behind and, along with his own voiceover commentary, provides amazing views and perspectives through multiple neighborhoods, streets, and cityscapes in the Eternal City.

While it might not be everyone’s cup of cappuccino, Caro diario was definitely an interesting view into contemporary Italian mores and values and a peek into the life experience of one of Italy’s more creative and colorful inhabitants.

Caro diario is available in Italian with English subtitles on the Amazon Instant Video website and app.

Writer and director Nanni Moretti driving around Rome on his Vespa in 'Caro diario' (1993)

Writer and director Nanni Moretti driving around Rome on his Vespa in ‘Caro diario’ (1993)