Veteran writer-director Pupi Avati takes a rose-tinted trip through his recollections of childhood.

Veteran writer-director Pupi Avati takes a rose-tinted trip through his recollections of childhood in “The Friends of Bar Margherita,” a choral work that’s let down by lackluster editing and the characters themselves. Set in 1954 Bologna and drenched in nostalgia, the pic has an artificial glow that won’t illuminate anyone under 60, let alone offshore viewers. However, loyal local fans have helped the April 3 release rack up more than $3 million in three weeks.

Teen Taddeo (Pierpaolo Zizzi) acts as narrator and Avati stand-in, spending the first 12 minutes introducing the locals who frequent the male-only neighborhood cafe, Bar Margherita. Included are Al (Diego Abatantuono), a kingly billiard champ with an unspecified interest in a louche nightclub; Manuelo (Luigi Lo Cascio), a semi-hysterical car thief and sex fiend; and Bep (Neri Marcore), whose severe social awkwardness is cured when he falls for pretty prostitute Marcella (Laura Chiatti). Reveling in “innocent,” old-fashioned misogyny, the pic never builds up to anything, instead relying on jazzy incidental music to provide lift. Lighting and post-synched dialogue feel equally outdated.

The Friends of Bar Margherita

Italy

Production

An 01 Distribution release of an Antonio Avati, Rai Cinema presentation of a DueA Film, Rai Cinema production, in association with Mediocreval. Produced by Antonio Avati. Directed, written by Pupi Avati.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, widescreen), Pasquale Rachini; editor, Amedeo Salfa; music, Lucio Dalla; production designer, Giuliano Pannuti; costume designer, Steno Tonelli. Reviewed at Roma Cinema, Rome, April 21, 2009. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Diego Abatantuono, Laura Chiatti, Fabio De Luigi, Luigi Lo Cascio, Neri Marcore, Luisa Ranieri, Pierpaolo Zizzi, Gianni Cavina, Katia Ricciarelli, Claudio Botosso, Gianni Ippoliti, Niki Giustini, Bob Messini, Caterina Sylos Labini, Maria Pia Timo, Gianni Fantoni, Lucia Modugno.
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