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Festival

Franco Melis Massimo Boldi Alexandra Isabelle Pasco Renzo Polpo Gianni Cavina Carla Melis Margaret Mazzantini Pigi Massimo Bonetti Elio Lorenzo Flaherty Pierannunzio Andrea Scorzoni Elisabetta Irene Grazioli Nina Elide Melli Leo Cordio Alberto Di Stasio

Franco Melis Massimo Boldi Alexandra Isabelle Pasco Renzo Polpo Gianni Cavina Carla Melis Margaret Mazzantini Pigi Massimo Bonetti Elio Lorenzo Flaherty Pierannunzio Andrea Scorzoni Elisabetta Irene Grazioli Nina Elide Melli Leo Cordio Alberto Di Stasio

The Venice Film Festival provides the setting for this familiar tale of a has-been making a comeback and, as was the case with Henry Jaglom’s “Venice/Venice,” the background is colorful enough to compensate for the often inadequate forground. Pupi Avati’s cuddly but insubstantial film, which toplines popular entertainer Massimo Boldi, should have a solid start in Italy, but elsewhere it will be relegated to tube exposure and festivals.

Boldi gives a subdued performance as Franco Melis, a once-popular actor now reduced to doing a standup comic routine in clubs where the young clientele doesn’t remember him. His last chance for a comeback materializes when a low-budget film in which he plays the lead is chosen to compete in the Venice fest. Melis, who misses his ex-wife and son, heads for the Lido with his latest squeeze, Alexandra, a tasty Romanian dancer and would-be star played with brio by Isabelle Pasco.

Much of the film sardonically tweaks the noses of the Venice fest, its organizers and, especially, the journalists in attendance. At the press conference for Melis’ film, none of the journalists present has actually seen the pic, but they ask elaborate questions nonetheless. In one-on-one interviews with the thesp, the patern continues: No one’s seen the film, but they want to know about Melis’ troubled private life.

The actor’s woes are compounded when Alexandra leaves him for a better prospect she meets at Spike Lee’s party and he discovers that an old enemy is on the festival jury. Nevertheless, the public seems to like the film and his performance, and Melis is convinced he’s in the running for the best actor accolade.

What follows is predictable and rather long-winded, as Melis tries to sort out his life, meets old friends, is reunited with his ex-wife and is encouraged to believe he’ll win. The very notion that a man’s life hinges on whether he’ll get a festival prize seems basically absurd.

For insiders, the festival setting is convincingly depicted, with scenes shot in fest locations including the Excelsior Hotel. To add authenticity, festival director Gillo Pontecorvo and Biennale prexy Gianluigi Rondi appear in walk-ons, as does [7mVariety[22;27m scribe Deborah Young.

For non-Italian audiences, who will be unfamiliar with Boldi, the film has little to offer. The actor gives a strangely flat performance, and is constantly upstaged by his lively costar, who, unfortunately, is absent for much of the film.

Tech credits are all up to par, but Avati has done more incisive work in previous outlings.

Festival

(ITALIAN)

Production: A Filmauro/Duea Film production. Produced by Antonio Avanti, Aurelio De Laurentus. Directed by Pupi Avati. Screenplay, Avati, Antonio Avati, Giorgio Gosetti, Doriano Fasoli, Nino Marino.

Crew: Camera (Cinecitta color), Chicca Ungaro; editor, Amedeo Salfa; music, Pinco Donaggio; production design, Alessandra Argienti, Alessandra D'Ettore, Martina Francini; costumes, Isabella Rizza; sound (Dolby stereo digital), Bruno Pupparo; assistant director, Gianni Amadei. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Special Event), Sept. 5, 1996. Running time: 95 MIN.

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