Cannes Film Review: ‘A Castle in Italy’

The helmer's third semi-autobiographical feature touches on themes of mortality and middle-aged panic in a mostly breezy, intelligent style.

With: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Louis Garrel, Filippo Timi, Marisa Borini, Xavier Beauvois, Céline Sallette, Andre Wilms, Marie Riviere, Gerard Falce, Pippo Delbono, Silvio Orlando, Omar Sharif. (French, Italian, English dialogue)

As it was in Olivier Assayas’ “Summer Hours,” a house is much more than a home in “A Castle in Italy”; it’s a repository of art, memories, lives lived in full and others cut short. The third semi-autobiographical feature for Italian-French multihyphenate Valeria Bruni Tedeschi once again follows the personal trials of beautiful bourgeois characters in and around the performing arts world, touching on themes of mortality and middle-aged panic in a mostly breezy, intelligent style. More than a mere affirmative-action entry in this year’s Cannes competition (where it is the lone pic directed by a woman), this low-key but pleasing arthouse item will earn more audience goodwill than much of the Croisette’s more fashionably outre product.

Inspired by two seismic events in her own life — the 2006 death of her brother, Virginio, from AIDS and her 2009 adoption of an African baby together with then-partner Louis Garrel — “A Castle in Italy” stars Bruni Tedeschi (“Actresses,” “It Is Easier for a Camel”) as Louise, an actress in her early forties who’s taken a self-imposed retirement from the screen, vowing to “make room for life in my life.” Like the director herself, Lousie descends from a wealthy Italian industrial family, but as pic opens they find themselves at a fiscal crossroads that calls to mind the line from “Six Degrees of Separation” that the rich live “hand to mouth, only on a larger scale.” Drowning in maintenance costs and hit with a nasty bill for back taxes, Louise’s aging mother (real Bruni Tedeschi matriarch Marisa Borini) can no longer manage the upkeep on their sprawling Chekovian estate in Piemonte and must decide whether to convert it into a museum, or perhaps liquidate some of its assets (including a large Bruegel that could fetch millions at auction).

Opposed to any and all of the above is Louise’s brother Ludovic (Filippo Timi), stricken with AIDS but still a fiery presence, railing against the dying of the light with a rapier wit. An intensely physical actor, the “Vincere” star kicks the movie up a notch whenever he’s onscreen, especially in the scenes he shares with Bruni Tedeschi, which have the too-close-for-comfort air of the sibling relationships in some of Bellocchio’s own films.

Back in Paris, Louise finds herself the unexpected object of a much younger man’s puppyish affection, when actor Nathan (Garrel) starts following her around town, claiming to be madly in love. But the childless Louise is all too aware of the precious hours remaining on her biological clock, and the insouciant Nathan (does Garrel function in any other mode?) seems ill-prepared for the demands of raising a family. Then there’s the fact that Louise may once have had a fling with Nathan’s film-director father (Andre Wilms), but at this stage of life, who can remember?

Working from a screenplay devised with her usual collaborators, Agnes De Sacy and Noemie Lvovsky (“Camille Rewinds”), Bruni Tedeschi holds all of pic’s myriad tangents in a delicate balance, no single one ever rising to the fore, no pressure felt to wrap everything — or anything — up in a tidy package at the end. Her direction is similarly efficient and unfussy, and sometimes rather inspired (particularly in her handling of Ludovic’s inevitable death scene). Above all, this is an actors’ showcase in which the helmer keeps her strong ensemble (including herself) front and center throughout. Only another actor-director, Xavier Beauvois, feels somewhat shoehorned into things as a ne’er-do-well family friend, long supported by Louise’s mom, now abruptly forced to fend for himself. Late in the pic, a side trip to London affords an amusing if superfluous cameo to Omar Sharif.

Bright, airy lensing by Jeanne Lapoire highlights a solid tech package, with Rita Pavone’s infectious ’60s hit “Viva la pappa col pomodoro” making for a delightful musical motif.

Cannes Film Review: 'A Castle in Italy'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 20, 2013. Running time: 103 MIN. Original title: “Un Chateau en Italie”

Production: (France) An Ad Vitam release of a Said Ben Said presentation of a SBS Prods./Arte France Cinema/Delta Cinema production in association with La Banque Postale Image 5, Manon 2 and Soficinema 8 Development with the participation of Canal +, Cine +, Arte France and CNC with the support of Commission Du Film Torino Piemonte. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Said Ben Said. 

Crew: Directed by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. Screenplay, Bruni Tedeschi, Agnes De Sacy, Noemie Lvovsky. Camera (color), Jeanne Lapoire; editors, Laure Gardette, Francesca Calvelli; production designer, Emmanuelle Duplay; costume designer, Caroline De Vivaise; sound (Dolby Digital), Francois Waledisch; assistant director, Olivier Genet.

With: With: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Louis Garrel, Filippo Timi, Marisa Borini, Xavier Beauvois, Céline Sallette, Andre Wilms, Marie Riviere, Gerard Falce, Pippo Delbono, Silvio Orlando, Omar Sharif. (French, Italian, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Knuckle City

    Jahmil X.T. Qubeka on Durban Opening-Night Film ‘Knuckle City’

    DURBAN–Dudu Nyakama is an aging boxer whose best fighting days are behind him. But for a man whose only glory has come in the ring, a big prize fight offers the one shot at saving his family, dragging him into the criminal underbelly of the gritty township he’s spent his whole life trying to escape. [...]

  • it chapter two, comic con

    Comic-Con: 4500 Gallons of Fake Blood and Everything Else to Know About 'It Chapter Two''

    Comic-Con 2019 kicked off with a stacked presentation from the director and cast of “It Chapter Two” on Wednesday, inspiring a curious amount of joy at San Diego’s Spreckles Theater in spite of the abject terror offered up by the film. The closing chapter to 2017’s record-obliterating “It,” the highest grossing R-rated horror film of [...]

  • 'Between Me and My Mind' Review:

    Film Review: Trey Anastasio in 'Between Me and My Mind'

    Trey Anastasio doesn’t look like a rock star. With his thick rimless glasses and flop of sandy red hair, you might say he resembles John Sebastian, but really, he looks like a mashup of Mike White and Jon Cryer and the filmmaker Chris Smith. He’s an appealingly ordinary shaggy-geek dude, like some guy you might [...]

  • Photo taken July 18, 2019, from

    More Than 20 Feared Dead in Arson Attack on Japan's Kyoto Animation

    UPDATED: More than 20 people are feared to have died Thursday in an arson attack on the Kyoto Animation company in Japan, shocking a nation in which extreme violence is very rare. Emergency services in Kyoto City received a call about 10:35 a.m. local time Thursday reporting an explosion on the first floor of the [...]

  • sith trooper

    Sith Trooper Revealed From 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

    “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” revealed a new storm trooper uniform Wednesday at San Diego Comic Con as part of a special exhibit celebrating the evolution of the storm trooper design. Dubbed the Sith trooper, the new uniform sports all-red armor plates with a matching red and black blaster. Also decorating the armor is [...]

  • Dunkirk

    Harry Styles Is the Perfect Prince Eric; Why He'd Rock 'Little Mermaid' Role

    Could Harry Styles be the perfect Prince Eric? One day after the announcement that the One Direction star is “in early negotiations to play the iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ role,” the internet exploded with speculation as to how he would portray the object of Ariel’s affections. “I can see lots of reasons why Harry is perfect,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content