Italy’s robust 2022 Berlinale representation of a half-dozen titles runs the gamut from the latest works by venerable veterans Paolo Taviani and Dario Argento to pics by fresh new Cinema Italiano voices including Chiara Bellosi, whose first film, “Ordinary Justice,” launched from Berlin in 2020.
Taviani, who is 91, is returning to Berlin but alone this time — his filmmaker brother, Vittorio, with whom he won a Golden Bear in 2012 for “Caesar Must Die,” passed away in 2018 — in competition with surreal drama “Leonora Addio,” inspired by a short story by Italian playwright and author Luigi Pirandello.
Argento, who set his 1977 chiller “Suspiria” in Germany, will be at the Berlinale for the first time as a director with Rome-set suspenser “Dark Glasses,” though he was on the fest’s main jury panel in 2001. Film unspools as a Berlinale Special Gala.
Bellosi is back with Panaorama selection “Swing Ride” (“Calcinculo”), about a 15-year-old named Benedetta pining for attention in a tawdry southern Italian province where she falls in love with a young transvestite. Newcomer Francesco Costabile is debuting with Panorama anti-Mafia drama “Una Femmina — The Code of Silence,” which follows a young woman who rebels against the Calabrian mob family that she was born into.
The Italian titles launching from Berlin provide a sharp snapshot of genres and themes percolating in the country’s film production pipeline that is managing somehow to stay vibrant despite disastrous box office returns.
“Leonora Addio,” by Paolo Taviani
Taviani takes his cue from Pirandello to weave a complex narrative interweaving three surreal Pirandello funerals with the story of the murder of a young Sicilian immigrant boy in Brooklyn, inspired by the author’s novella “Il Chiodo,” published shortly before Pirandello’s death.
The film’s cast comprises Fabrizio Ferracane, who won Italy’s David di Donatello award for his role in Marco Bellocchio’s “The Traitor” and prominent stage and screen actor Massimo Popolizio. Oscar-winning composer Nicola Piovani (“Life Is Beautiful”). In competition.
“Dark Glasses,” by Dario Argento
The horror maestro is back with this chiller about a serial killer who strangles prostitutes with cello strings and is pursuing a luxury escort who goes blind after a car crash but gets help from an orphaned Chinese boy. Ilenia Pastorelli (“They Call Me Jeeg”) and Dario’s daughter Asia Argento star. Berlinale Special Gala.
“Swing Time” (“Calcinculo”), by Chiara Bellosi
When a fairground sets up outside her window in a Southern Italian town 15-year-old Benedetta meets Armando, aka Amanda, a young transvestite who runs the carousel and sells drugs. Described by the director as depicting an unusual friendship and the experience of empowerment, this coming-of-age film follows Bellosi’s “Ordinary Justice,” which examined the lives of two families on opposite sides of a murder case. Both pics are produced by Carlo Cresto Dina’s Tempesta, which launched the career of Alice Rohrwacher (“The Wonders,” “Happy as Lazzaro”) and is known for nurturing the cream of Italy’s new cinematic crop. In Panorama.
“Una Femmina — The Code of Silence,” by Francesco Costabile
For his first feature, Calabrian helmer Costabile delved deep into his homeland to depict the Ndrangheta, the local mob, but from the perspective of the women who’ve had the courage to break away from the grip of its blood ties and codes. Pic is about a young woman named Rosa who lives with her mother’s relatives in a remote village. Her mother’s mysterious death when she was a child casts a gloomy shadow on her life; but the truth surfaces, and Rosa realizes she is trapped in a same predestined fate, and decides to betray her family and seek revenge. Lina Siciliano makes her acting debut as Rosa. In Panorama.
“Into My Name,” by Nicola Bassetti
Elliot Page has boarded this transgender-themed doc by Italian director and producer Nicolò Bassetti, which stems from Bassetti’s personal experience with the gender transition of his child, Matteo, and provides an intimate look at the universal challenges of gender transition by observing a tight-knit group of friends in the central Italian city of Bologna. In Panorama Documentary.