ROME With a tighter selection this time around, the programmers of the Venice fest’s Italian Panorama sidebar are confident that less is definitely more.
“The Panorama will be a real surprise this year,” promises film critic Claudio Trionfera, who selected the annual section on homegrown fare with fest chief Gillo Pontecorvo. “For once, we’ve easily reached the quality of the French focus in Cannes or the German (sidebar) in Berlin.
“Our initial approach (this year) was to be extremely selective,” he adds, “choosing five top-quality films instead of the usual eight to 10. But because of the exceptional strength of the work of young filmmakers, we had a tough time choosing, and had to extend the selection to seven titles.”
Bucking the trends
All but one are first or second features. And all shrug off established trends of Italian mainstream moviemaking, tackling young themes and fresh ideas, according to Trionfera.
Legit actress Gianna Maria Garbelli directs herself as a day-release prisoner struggling to put a drug conviction behind her in “Portagli i Miei Saluti” (Give Him My Best), which Trionfera describes as a raw, Warholesque underground piece.
Two others making their directing bows are photographer Leone Pompucci, with “Mille Bolle Blu,” a Rome apartment-block comedy set in 1961 that takes its title from a popular tune of the time, and Pasquale Scimeca, with “Il Giorno di San Sebastiano” (Saint Sebastian Day). The latter, set in 1893 Sicily, tells the true yarn of a farm workers’ uprising against Mob-linked landowners.
Actor-director Giulio Base’s second outing is “Lest,” about a bride who elopes to East Europe with a roughneck chauffeur when the groom doesn’t show.
Base’s first pic, “Crack,” preemed at Venice two years back.
Other sophomore efforts are Vito Zagarrio’s “Bonus Malus,” about a mild-mannered insurance company inspector on a two-week tour of his firm’s Tuscan branches, and Lucio Gaudino’s “E Quando Lei Mori Fu Lutto Nazionale” (And When She Died, the Whole Country Mourned). The “She” of the title writes, sings, plays music, dances, paints and seduces a slew of power brokers, until changing her tune.
The final title, “Diary of a Man Condemned to Marriage” by Giuseppe Piccioni, deals with the pre-wedding angst of an executive who dreams of leading a double life.
Piccioni’s “Ask for the Moon” was an art-house sleeper here and a popular festival item abroad.
Industryites hope that over-eager distributors won’t give this year’s Italo movie crop the same treatment as last year’s, when a dozen titles were unleashed nationally hot from their Venice preems.
The resulting glut of local fare led to a survival of the fittest, with only a handful playing for more than a week.
The Panorama slot, however, is still much sought-after by local producers, who traditionally hold out for selection until the last moment, thereby putting their titles off-limits to other festivals.
One local casualty is the Locarno fest, held only a couple of weeks prior to Venice.
Gripes Locarno chief Marco Muller, whose Italian lineup took a hit this year, “Every year, Venice makes its final selection of Italian pix so late in the day that there isn’t time to take them here.”