If Nanni Moretti’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “The Son’s Room” signaled a shift for the Italian director toward more universal themes after years of judging the world almost exclusively in terms of how it impacted him personally, the pairing of these two shorts made before and after that feature reinforces the view. “The Anguished Cry of the Predator Bird” compiles 20 scenes cut from Moretti’s 1998 diary drama “Aprile,” with the director centerscreen throughout, while the more recent “The Last Customer” is a selfless elegy delivered at the end of an important chapter in a New York family’s life. Likely to be of interest mainly to Moretti completists at fests and in retrospectives, the former would make a useful DVD enhancer, while the latter should score some TV sales.
During a New York trip in 2002 for Miramax’s release of “The Son’s Room,” Moretti learned that the pharmacy run for two generations by the family of production exec Gina Gardini was closing and the buildings on the block were to be demolished.
Chronicling the final day of business, the DV-docu takes in the emotional milestone for Gardini’s parents and their tearful farewells with the customers for whom they provided service, friendship, advice and support. The simple, unpretentious project serves as a touching testament to community spirit and a sad acknowledgment of the steady disappearance of old neighborhood institutions.
The individually titled “Aprile” scenes are mainly further reflections on the feature’s principle concerns: the arrival in 1994 of Silvio Berlusconi and his conservative party for a first term in Italian office and the birth of the director’s son Pietro. While the political musings add little to issues covered in the release version (a 1998 Cannes competition entry), some father-and-son moments are sweetly poignant, such as Moretti explaining the shock for newborn Pietro of the noise of the outside world, or the director dotingly placing his son at the center of a production meeting.
Most enjoyable by far, however, is the title scene, which plays like a freestanding short and an amusing slice of metropolitan life. In it, Moretti ventures to a busy Rome intersection notorious for the flocks of birds that congregate in its trees each afternoon and splatter everything below. Waiting patiently until the first bird appears and the first pedestrian umbrella goes up, the director heads upstairs to a friend’s terrace to witness a neighbor scare the messy intruders off, blasting out piercing bird cries through a megaphone.