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Our Country

Milan is a cesspool where power, sex, money and the ills of Italy combine in Francesca Comencini's flat ensemble piece "Our Country." A professional cast and tech work help distinguish it from a plethora of recent films featuring multiple characters whose dramas intertwine.

With:
Rita - Valeria Golino Ugo - Luca Zingaretti Otello - Giuseppe Battiston Elodie - Laura Chiatti

Milan is a cesspool where power, sex, money and the ills of Italy combine in Francesca Comencini’s flat ensemble piece “Our Country.” A professional cast and tech work help distinguish it from a plethora of recent films featuring multiple characters whose dramas intertwine. This is as easy to watch as a TV series and equally inconclusive, giving viewers a feeling the stories could go on just about forever, and that the best place to view them is from a comfortable sofa at home.

Following her more on-target “I Like to Work (Mobbing)” about workplace harassment, and her delicate Italo Svevo adaptation “My Father’s Words,” this film comes as something of a let-down from the wide-ranging director. The contribution of co-scripter Franco Bernini, who has written better screenplays, is felt mostly in the film’s social undertones and its angry critique of a society that revolves around money and luxury, writes off true feelings, and measures women by their sexual value.

The main story pits corrupt businessman Ugo (Luca Zingaretti), who owns a bank and deals in insider trading on the stock market, against hot Finance Police inspector Rita (Valeria Golino.) Rita’s love life is a mess, but she doesn’t miss a beat at work and she’s determined to bring down the arrogant banker, whom her office is wiretapping. Her key line, proudly hurled at him during their final face-to-face, is emblematic of the pic’s bent for boiling everything down to good versus evil: “You can’t do anything you want; this is our country, too!”

Other stories suffer from being terribly familiar and uninvolving. Otello (Giuseppe Battiston), an ex-con with a heart of gold, tries to take a nice East European hooker off the streets. But she slips into a coma while pregnant, and Ugo tries to purchase her baby for his childless wife. Meanwhile, Ugo cruelly dumps his mistress Elodie (Laura Chiatti), a coked-up model he keeps in a hotel suite.

Throughout these ugly dramas, one feels a painful lack of character development, which keeps even a pro like Golino sliding back and forth between an imaginatively created role (her half-free-spirited wife in “Respiro” is a shining example) and television-ready stereotype. Cast has the kind of glossy glow that should work for the small screen.

Visually, Luca Bigazzi smooths any rough edges with his usual classy lensing.

Our Country

Italy

Production: An 01 Release of a Bianca Film/RAI Cinema production. (International sales: MK2, Paris.) Produced by Donatella Botti. Directed by Francesca Comencini. Screenplay, Comencini, Bernini.

Crew: Camera (color), Luca Bigazzi; editor, Massimo Fiocchi; music, Banda Osiris, Fabio Gurian; production designer, Paola Comencini; costume designer, Daniela Ciancio; sound (Dolby digital), Alberto Amato. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (competing), Oct. 20, 2006. Running time: 106 MIN.

With: Rita - Valeria Golino Ugo - Luca Zingaretti Otello - Giuseppe Battiston Elodie - Laura ChiattiWith: Luca Argentero, Fabio Ghidoni, Bebo Storti, Paolo Bessegato.

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