Cinema Italiano returns to Perth for another year! You can catch the festival at Cinema Paradiso and Luna on SX from September 21 to October 11.
A nun, a politician and an Arab walk into a bar, and hilarity ensues as Luca Miniero’s Messy Christmas proves.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Set on the remote Mediterranean island of Porto Buio, Messy Christmas sees newly elected mayor Cecco (Claudio Bisio) wrangle with the townsfolk over the particulars of the upcoming Christmas nativity scene. With the child who usually plays Jesus having outgrown the role and no new babies born on the island for years, Mayor Cecco must instead ask the local Islamic Tunisian community if they can ‘borrow’ one of their children to play Jesus – not an easy request when so many locals are entrenched in fundamental traditions on both sides of the equation.
A broad and irreverent comedy that never feels mean-spirited, Messy Christmas has a lot of fun wrestling with culture clash and religious differences. Most of the humour in Miniero’s riotous romp is rooted in poking fun at the peculiarities of modern Italy, with its growing multiculturalism and deeply rooted Christian ideals. The film flaunts a large ensemble of kooky characters, from Bilal (Alessandro Gassman), a local Islam convert, his Arabic wife Aida (Nabiha Akkari), who wants to put a distinctly un-Christian spin on her depiction of the Virgin Mary, and Marta (Angela Finocchiaro), a nun who is firmly fixed on upholding Catholic tradition.
Light and breezy, Messy Christmas doesn’t take itself or its subject matter too seriously; sure, there are bound to be a few gags here that might ruffle a few feathers, but the overall impression is one of cartoonish goofiness. While the slapdash effort to stage the nativity scene is fun (at one point an Aladdin-inspired set-up dials up the silliness), the emotional heft delivered by the final act is disappointingly slight. Miniero’s script (serving as both writer and director) lacks the same polish and spirited conclusion one would usually expect from a comedy of this ilk, and instead chooses to end proceedings with a shrug. A shame, but what comes before it is still good for a laugh.
The opening title of this year’s Italian Film Festival is essentially Stuck on You for the arthouse crowd.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Seventeen-year-old twin sisters Daisy (Angela Fontana) and Violet (Marianna Fontana) both have an extraordinary singing talent, which they put to good use supporting their family by singing at weddings, baptisms and communions. This is, however, a small part of their popularity; the real draw is their other, more unusual charm – they’re Siamese twins, joined at the hip. They’re inseparable, literally and figuratively, until a prominent doctor notices them at an event and offers to surgically separate them.
Edwardo De Angelis faces a dilemma that seems to appear semi-regularly in independent film – an ambitious premise squandered by an unremarkable script and execution. His otherwise enjoyable flick Indivisible suffers from this, sticking far too close to the family drama formula despite focusing on a topic rarely explored seriously and more often than not reduced to comedy or horror tropes.
Luckily it’s rescued by its two stars; real-life sisters Angela and Marianna Fontana, whose twindom easily lends to their remarkable chemistry and effortless back and forth. What’s truly special is how real they’ve made the Siamese trait feel, having clearly put in a lot of practice walking side by side, with prosthetics joining them to make it seem as though they have been stuck together their entire lives.
But they’re let down by the all-too-obvious directions the story takes. Of course a doctor conveniently appears and takes such an interest that he offers to separate the girls free of charge. Of course one sister wants to be divided so she can live a normal life while the other couldn’t bear to be apart from her sibling. And of course their conniving father has kept the fact that this surgery could have taken place long ago from them so he can continue to make a profit off their singing. Despite an interesting idea, it feels like we’ve seen it all before; luckily, its stars make us care just enough to stick with it.
I Was A Dreamer
First time director Michele Vannucci delivers a dreamy recount of a man returning to life in Rome after prison.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Based on the true story of Mirko Frezza (played by the real life Mirko Frezza), I Was A Dreamer chronicles Frezza’s release from jail and return to his hometown where he finds his community torn apart by rampant drug addiction. Mirko agrees to take on the role of president for the homeowner’s committee, and attempts to set up community based projects to try and rehabilitate the drug victims, however, as his own father falls deeper into addiction, Mirko wonders if the issues faced by his townspeople are too far gone to repair.
There’s strong performances all round from the entire cast of I Was A Dreamer, with Frezza in particular portraying his own internal and external struggles with a beautiful subtlety. Ginevra De Carolis, who plays Mirko’s daughter Michelle, also puts in a powerful performance as Michelle attempts to repair her broken relationship with a father who has been absent from most of her life. Her resistance to her father and her journey towards rebuilding her trust in him is captured in all its fragility.
The film has a dream-like quality to it, almost hallucinogenic, making you feel as though you’re floating through the film, as if in a trance. This dreamy style causes a bit of disorientation, but director Michele Vannucci in his feature film debut, cleverly harnesses this technique to help you see the world through Mirko’s eyes in his feature film debut.
There is an an annoying overuse of voice over that is largely unnecessary; it doesn’t support the narrative and is mostly used to reveal Mirko’s inner thoughts at the expense of the film.
Overall, I Was a Dreamer is a sensitive look into a community plagued by addiction. It’s a touching tale and you really feel for Mirko and his feeling of having the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The Lavazza Italian Film Festival is screening in Perth from September 21 – October 11
Images courtesy of Lavazza Italian Film Festival & Palace Films