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The Medal

Now that the hard-line days of communism are behind the Italian left, the personal dramas and scars of the time can be aired in films such as Sergio Rossi's "The Medal." The Cold War injustices depicted here are but a pale copy of what East European directors have recounted, but they give "The Medal" a chance to go on record, 40 years later, in favor of communism with a human face. Outside Italy, pic has only the small-screen appeal of its warm portrait of a mother and daughter in 1950s Turin. Story is told from the p.o.v. of 10-year-old Anna (Tresy Taddei), who lives in a working-class neighborhood with her mother, Lidia (Antonella Ponziani), secretary in a factory typing pool. Anna's father died a hero's death as a partisan in the war, since when her attractive mom, a union organizer at the factory, has put romance out of her mind. Anna aspires to earn the medal that her Catholic teacher (Maria Monti) assigns at school to the best pupil. But her mother's politics and refusal to let Anna make her First Communion seem to preclude it.

With:
Lidia ..... Antonella Ponziani Ferrero ..... Franco Nero Anna ..... Tresy Taddei Elsa ..... Sonia Grassi Teacher ..... Maria Monti Cicles ..... Enzo Salomone Piotr ..... Luigi Montini

Rossi has a delicate touch in depicting the bonds of affection between Anna and Lidia, and the little girl’s yearning to be a part of her peer group is drawn with special subtlety. Both actresses turn in impeccable perfs, especially Ponziani, who has been slowly growing in stature in a series of Italian arthouse films. Her disastrous love affair with her capitalist boss (a still-dashing Franco Nero), who pretends to love her only so he can destroy her in the eyes of her comrades, rings achingly true, with Ponziani emotionally deep and convincing. Her unwavering convictions and the courage she shows in standing up to the cell’s demands of “either him or us” make Lidia a memorable heroine.

But so is Anna, who realizes all by herself that the medal she covets is just a conformist’s badge. Hearing on the radio that the Rosenbergs have been executed (a story she has followed anxiously throughout the film), she throws away her medal — “earned” because she finally made her First Communion.

Rossi is a conscientious director who concentrates on telling the story, rather at the expense of the tech credits, which have a fatally dated TV look about them. A well-penned script by Maria Rosa Valli, Paolo Castaldini and Rossi offers the characters a solid framework within which to develop. Patrizio Marone’s editing gives pic a calm, steady pace.

The Medal

Italian

Production: An Italian Intl. Film release of an AMA Film production in association with RAI Television Channel 3. Produced by Gianni Minervini. Directed by Sergio Rossi. Screenplay, Maria Rosa Valli, Rossi, Paolo Castaldini

Crew: Camera (color), Franco Lecca; editor, Patrizio Marone; music, Alessandro Molinari; art direction, Mario Di Pace; costumes, Francesco Panni; sound, Marco Mauti; assistant director, Anita Sanders. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Special Events), Aug. 30, 1997. Running time: 112 MIN.

With: Lidia ..... Antonella Ponziani Ferrero ..... Franco Nero Anna ..... Tresy Taddei Elsa ..... Sonia Grassi Teacher ..... Maria Monti Cicles ..... Enzo Salomone Piotr ..... Luigi Montini

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