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Only a country with as poorly integrated a black population as Italy could think of “Black and White” as anything but a very anemic romantic comedy, whose stab at interracial issues feels decades old. Normally savvy helmer Cristina Comencini strives for an easy-going sensitivity with this tale of unexpected love, but it’s obvious she’s not thought about these themes before and the results are maddeningly naive. Local opening was solid, but Stateside chances are nil.

Elena (Ambra Angiolini) works with Senegalese Bertrand (Eriq Ebouaney, “Lumumba”) for an African relief agency in Rome. Elena’s husband, Carlo (Fabio Volo), and Bertrand’s wife, Nadine (Aissa Maiga), form an instant attraction at a charity function. Once their affair is discovered, their spouses kick them out. After that, however, script doesn’t know whether to go with irreconcilable differences or keeping families together. It almost tries to have it both ways in a limp ending where Comencini uses the exquisite build-up of Grace Jones’ “La vie en rose” but hasn’t learned from the music how to get to the climax. Only Maiga (“Bamako”) escapes with her considerable charm intact.

Black and White

Italy

  • Production: A 01 Distribution release of a Cattleya, RAI Cinema production. Produced by Riccardo Tozzi, Giovanni Stabilini, Marco Chimenz. Executive producer, Matteo De Laurentiis. Directed by Cristina Comencini. Screenplay, Giulia Calenda, Maddalena Ravagli, Comencini.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Fabio Cianchetti; editor, Cecilia Zanuso; production designer, Paola Comencini; costume designer, Antonella Berardi. Reviewed at Multisala Barberini, Rome, Jan. 14, 2008. Original title: Bianco e nero. Italian, French, Wolof dialogue. Running time: 101 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Fabio Volo, Ambra Angiolini, Aissa Maiga, Eriq Ebouaney, Anna Bonaiuto, Franco Branciaroli, Teresa Saponangelo, Katia Ricciarelli, Bob Messini, Awa Ly, Billo Thiernothian.
  • Music By: