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Marriages

Director-novelist Cristina Comencini turns her hand to romantic comedy in "Marriages," a fairly standard effort whose rush to please will probably work better on TV than the bigscreen. Though the material moves well and raises smiles throughout, its rehearsal of typical marital squabbles generates about as much electricity as a dead battery. Film is the first feature from Riccardo Tozzi's new production banner, Cattleya, to be released (Franco Zeffirelli's "Tea with Mussolini" is still to come). On the strength of its opening, pic looks set for solid business locally.

Cast:
Giulia ..... Francesca Neri Paolo ..... Diego Abatantuono Vera ..... Stefania Sandrelli Alessio ..... Claude Brasseur Sandra ..... Cecilia Dazzi Fausto ..... Paolo Sassanelli Lucia ..... Lunetta Savino Sergio ..... Emilio Solfrizzi

Director-novelist Cristina Comencini turns her hand to romantic comedy in “Marriages,” a fairly standard effort whose rush to please will probably work better on TV than the bigscreen. Though the material moves well and raises smiles throughout, its rehearsal of typical marital squabbles generates about as much electricity as a dead battery. Film is the first feature from Riccardo Tozzi’s new production banner, Cattleya, to be released (Franco Zeffirelli’s “Tea with Mussolini” is still to come). On the strength of its opening, pic looks set for solid business locally.

Story opens on frantic Christmas preparations in Bologna, where Giulia (Francesca Neri) is intro’d as the perfect wife (to Paolo, played by “Mediterraneo’s” Diego Abatantuono) and young mother of two teens. But appearances are deceptive. As the holiday tension grows, something snaps in Giulia and, instead of picking up her philandering brother, Sergio (Emilio Solfrizzi), and his seemingly stoic wife, Lucia (Lunetta Savino), at the station , she impulsively hops on the first train to Trani, her southern hometown.

There, Giulia’s mother, Vera (Stefania Sandrelli), awaits her secret annual rendezvous with aging French lover Alessio (Claude Brasseur), to whom she was once unhappily married and who sired both Giulia and her brother. Giulia’s near-affair with childhood pal Fausto (Paolo Sassanelli) brings hubby Paolo to town, in the company of her unhappily single sister, Sandra (Cecilia Dazzi). Family lies dissolve as one truth after another is comically revealed. In an off-season lovers’ motel, everybody discovers everybody else, and the couples re-form.

A game cast, toplining a housewifely-looking Neri — sans the mystery of her dramatic and erotic roles — and a lovably grouchy Abatantuono, doesn’t try to step beyond pic’s all-in-the-family ambitions. Enlivening the comedy is some serious cross-cutting by editor Cecilia Zanuso, culminating in an entertaining “face-to-face” fight between Giulia and Paolo as they consult psychic mediums in Trani and Bologna, respectively.

Music track is pleasant, though its emphasis on ’70s Americana is a bit disorienting for a story that’s set in the present. Roberto Forza’s lensing favors close shots, an additional tip-off that this is primarily TV material.

Marriages

(ROMANTIC COMEDY -- ITALIAN-FRENCH)

Production: A Filmauro release of a Filmauro, Cattleya (Italy)/Carrere Television (France) production, in association with Tele-Piu. Produced by Riccardo Tozzi, Aurelio De Laurentiis. Directed, written by Cristina Comencini, based on a story by Roberta Mazzoni, Comencini.

Crew: Camera (color), Roberto Forza; editor, Cecilia Zanuso; music, Paul Racer, Matt Son; production designer, Paola Comencini; costume designer, Sonia Peng; sound, Bruno Pupparo; assistant director, Giulio Manfredonia; casting, Mirta Guranaschelli. Reviewed at Anica cinema, Rome, Oct. 13, 1998. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: Giulia ..... Francesca Neri Paolo ..... Diego Abatantuono Vera ..... Stefania Sandrelli Alessio ..... Claude Brasseur Sandra ..... Cecilia Dazzi Fausto ..... Paolo Sassanelli Lucia ..... Lunetta Savino Sergio ..... Emilio Solfrizzi

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