Review: ‘Caro Diario’

A major film in a slow Italian season, Nanni Moretti's three-parter "Dear Diary" is an intensely personal work one step away from an autobiographical docu. Consistently stimulating and amusing (two segs are comedy), "Diary" speaks forcefully to Italian auds, and domestic outlook looks strong.

A major film in a slow Italian season, Nanni Moretti’s three-parter “Dear Diary” is an intensely personal work one step away from an autobiographical docu. Consistently stimulating and amusing (two segs are comedy), “Diary” speaks forcefully to Italian auds, and domestic outlook looks strong. Fest outings, for which film has excellent prospects, could help it break through to offshore screens, though it will require special handling.

As in his previous six features, which have earned him cult status in Italy, Moretti the actor occupies center stage with his lanky frame, handsome pout and sudden De Niro-like grin.

The inner universe of Moretti the writer/director — mixing current newspaper clippings with his own thoughts and feelings and events from his life — unfolds in three different stories.

In the breezy “On My Vespa,” Moretti rides around a lush summertime Rome, checking out obscure neighborhoods and admiring their architecture.

He meets actress Jennifer Beals and her companion, U.S. indie director Alexandre Rockwell; goes to see “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” and sets out to kill the critic (a hilarious Carlo Mazzacurati) who recommended it.

Real-time driving is accompaniedby a hip African beat, but the segment does finally drag.

In “Islands,” Moretti humorously examines how the politically committed late- 1960s generation has become cynical and isolated. Looking for peace and quiet in which to work, he ferries round the magnificent Aeolian islands off Sicily with his friend (Renato Carpentieri), a monastic intellectual who’s retired from the world to study James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

On one isle, the people are so willfully secluded they won’t answer the door. Carpentieri discovers he can’t live without TV soaps, and he and Moretti climb into a remote volcano to quiz American tourists about upcoming episodes of “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

Concluding seg, “Doctors,” is in a darker vein, opening with a chilling view of Moretti in bed receiving chemotherapy for cancer. After months of visits to dermatologists and acupuncturists, a malignant tumor is diagnosed — now cured, he stresses.

This true story is told lightly, but the film remains disquietingly open, perhaps intentionally. Viewer is left with a raw feeling of anger at the Italo medical-pharmaceutical industry.

Co-produced by Italian and French TV companies for $ 2.7 million, “Dear Diary” retains an honest, small-picture feel that directly connects with auds. Offering intimate self-exposure, Moretti solders his bond with fortysomethings who have lived through years of political disenchantment.

But Moretti’s sarcastic voiceover comments challenge viewers’ political correctness while sanctimoniously asserting his own.

“I’m not guilty!” he announces as he tools around Rome on his moped. “You all shouted horrible things in demonstrations and you’ve grown old! I shouted the right things, and now I’m a splendid 40-year-old.”

Pic has a deceptively casual look, painstakingly constructed by cinematographer Giuseppe Lanci and editor Mirco Garrone. Nicola Piovani’s music is lighthearted and witty.

Caro Diario

Italian-French

Production

A Lucky Red release (Italy) of a Sacher Film (Rome)/Banfilm/La Sept Cinema (Paris) production, in association with RAI-1 and Canal Plus. Produced by Nanni Moretti, Angelo Barbagallo. Directed, written by Moretti.

Crew

Camera (color), Giuseppe Lanci; editor, Mirco Garrone; music, Nicola Piovani; art direction, Marta Maffucci; costume design, Maria Rita Barbera; sound, Franco Borni. Reviewed at Nuovo Sacher Cinema, Rome, Nov. 9, 1993. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Giovanni Moretti - Nanni Moretti
Gerardo - Renato Carpentieri
Stromboli Mayor - Antonio Neiwiller
Film Critic - Carlo Mazzacurati
With: Jennifer Beals, Alexandre Rockwell, Conchita Airoldi, Raffaella Lebboroni, Marco Paolini.
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