As Oscar season revs up, Italian filmmakers and fans are set to celebrate the nation’s movies at the 2014 edition of Cinema Italian Style, the Los Angeles-set showcase contemporary Italo films. Writer-director Paolo Virzi, whose “Human Capital,” is Italy’s choice to enter the foreign-language Oscar race, is looking forward to attending the Nov. 13-18 event, at which his picture will screen.
Based on Stephen Amidon’s novel, “Human Capital” is the story of a hit-and-run accident and its effect on two families — one wealthy, one middle-class. Virzi says the Italian touch is in finding a way to combine tragic, bitter stories with humor and heart, and to use film to comment on larger social and political issues. “Movies are a very effective way to tell something about contemporary society,” he notes.
Virzi explains that while there have been challenges for Italian filmmakers as both the country and the art have evolved along with viewer tastes, that today’s films will stand the test of time.
“When we speak about Italian cinema, we used to think to the past, but I think in the last decade, there is a new Italy onscreen,” Virzi says, noting countryman Paolo Sorrentino’s foreign-language Oscar win for 2013’s “The Great Beauty.” “When we go back to watch this period, we will be able to see the value of this moment.”
Film is a passion project for Italians, Virzi says, vastly different from the business of Hollywood studio films, and more like U.S. indies. He likens Italian filmmakers to craftsmen, who have to “fight with bare hands” to create a work of art, but have the freedom to tell a truly meaningful story. Virzi acknowledges that movies can’t bring sweeping change, but says that they can satisfy in a meaningful way.
“A movie is a toy,” he says. “It’s something to entertain, to provoke emotion. But if you are able to hide inside your toy something more important — that’s the special thing you can do with this job.”