A film that will strike a poignant note of recognition in the heart of any movie producer who has ever considered selling his/her grandmother to raise film financing, “Kim Novak Is On the Phone” marks the directing bow of Italian producer Enrico Roseo. An overly slow pace and mishmash of styles will provoke some audience attrition for a film whose pleasant atmosphere and mature theme seem aimed at broader, if older, auds, peacefully watching TV at home.
Though the material would seem a natural for comic treatment, Roseo prefers a wistful key of nostalgia as he looks over his hero’s past. Jacques Perrin (a producer in his own right) plays ever-boyish producer Enrico, who has a problem: He has to lay his hands on $ 250,000 fast to close a deal with Kim Novak for his next movie. (The actress has a special meaning for him, as the audience will discover.) He sets out optimistically for his family house near Parma, intending to sell it quickly. But the stately villa, filled with antique heirlooms, family portraits and cobwebs, can’t be sold without the consent of his wife, Emilia (Joanna Pacula).
Resentfully separated, she has no intention of giving Enrico the time of day. She’s made a new life for herself with a steady but dull businessman and has turned their teenage son, Luca (Joachim Lombard), against his father.
A curious feeling of retouched autobiography pervades “Kim Novak.” The realistic settings — middle-class apartments, bachelor residences, Parmesan cheese factories — strain against a dreamier, Felliniesque atmosphere.
Enrico embarks on a memory trip back to his gilded adolescence, when he drove a Porsche and organized innocent “orgies” for his pals with a sexy blond barmaid (Anna Falchi) who looked like Kim Novak.
One scene on the beach at daybreak, with a violinist playing Nicola Piovani’s plaintive score while Enrico stares with drunken yearning at two naked girls, is clearly inspired by “Amarcord” and “I Vitelloni.”
As the couple’s teenage son, Lombard embodies the fantasy of a wise youth who , ignoring his harridan mother, sides with his unpresentable father and campaigns to straighten him out. They play squash, wrestle and go to mass together.
This TV-style relationship feels out of place with the cynical details of Enrico’s failings. More convincing is Enrico’s discovery that all his school buddies have grown old and rich but are as lacking in generosity as he is.
Some of Italy’s top technicians worked on the film, and tech quality is fine.