Review: ‘Bellissima’

Odd narrative gaps and arty directorial touches fail to eke anything novel out of a very familiar premise in debuting Polish helmer Artur Urbanski's featurette "Bellissima." Duly named after Visconti's 1951 Italo classic, this stage mother-driven semi-remake doesn't seem to know what it's aiming for.

Odd narrative gaps and arty directorial touches fail to eke anything novel out of a very familiar premise in debuting Polish helmer Artur Urbanski’s featurette “Bellissima.” Duly named after Visconti’s 1951 Italo classic (in which Anna Magnani was hell-bent on getting her daughter into pictures), this stage mother-driven semi-remake doesn’t seem to know what it’s aiming for. Nonetheless, it’s a decent calling-card effort that could pick up some Eurotube sales.

Vulgar and giggly, outfitted in a blonde fright wig of Dolly Partonesque proportions, aging sexpot Elzbieta (Ewa Kasprzyk) is determined to shove her precociously louche child Maria (Maria Goralczyk) into whatever spotlights she herself was denied. The willowy 14-year-old puts up some resistance, walking out on a TV commercial when forced to kiss the barely older boy Mom is shagging. Maria even briefly runs away — albeit only to the hip couple next door. Her eventual success is given a rather unearned dollop of pathos when Ma dies giving birth to a child Maria will now have to raise. Intriguing but ill-mixed satire, pseudo-verite and dark drama jostle together, with Kasprzyk’s near-burlesque turn at odds with other thesps.

Bellissima

Poland

Production

A Telewizja Polska S.A. production. Produced by Daniusz Jablonski, Violetta Kaminska. Directed, written by Artur Urbanski.

Crew

Camera (color, digital Betacam), Marian Prokop; editor, Marek Krol; music, Zbigniew Zbrowski; production designer, Agnieszka Zawadowska. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Discovery), Sept. 5, 2002. Running time: 61 MIN.

With

Maria Goralczyk, Ewa Kasprzyk, Pawel Wilczak, Maria Morin-Kieler, Katarzyna Bargielowska.
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