Piranhas (La paranza dei bambini) directed by Claudio Giovannesi
Piranhas (La paranza dei bambini) directed by Claudio Giovannesi

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema returns to Film at Lincoln Center for the 19th edition offering audiences a diverse and extensive lineup of contemporary Italian films, from June 6 to 12.

The Opening Night film is Claudio Giovannesi’s Piranhas, adapted from the novel by Gomorrah writer Roberto Saviano. The fourth film by Giovannesi and winner of the Berlinale Silver Bear Best Script Award, Piranhas follows a group of cocksure young men enraptured by the local Camorra who find themselves gradually descending into the violent, paranoid world of the Napoli mafia. Highlights of the lineup include Paolo Sorrentino’s Loro, a satirical reimagining of the fall of Silvio Berlusconi with The Great Beauty’s Toni Servillo as the disgraced and debaucherous prime minister; Mario Martone’s stirring period drama Capri-Revolution, which centers on a young goatherd who finds herself drawn to a commune of politically radical artists and intellectuals in pre-WWI Capri; Gianni Zanasi’s Lucia’s Grace, starring Alba Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro, I Am Love) as a conflicted land surveyor who learns that her new building project threatens the environmental safety of the city; actor Valerio Mastandrea’s directorial feature debut Laughing, a powerfully cathartic exploration of grief punctuated by disarming humor and flashes of poetic realism; and the evocative romance Ricordi?, Valerio Mieli’s earthy meditation on love following an unnamed couple wrestling with the passage of time and the tidal forces of memory.

Documentaries feature strongly in the Open Roads lineup, including the North American premiere of Agostino Ferrente’s lyrical and moving Selfie, a chronicle of adolescent friendship in the gang-ravaged Traiano region of Naples largely filmed on smartphones by the 16-year-old subjects; The Disappearance of My Mother, an intimate, inquisitive portrait of cinematographer-turned-director Beniamino Barrese’s mother, the renowned model, activist, and feminist educator Benedetta Barzini; Normal, a sweeping work of anthropology from Adele Tulli that reckons with instilled and reinforced gender identities in modern Italian society; and Sono Gassman! Vittorio re della commedia, Fabrizio Corallo’s engaging survey of the life, work, and legacy of the Italian screen icon Vittorio Gassman.

This year’s edition of Open Roads will also showcase a number of breakout performances, including Ciro D’Emilio’s coming-of-age soccer drama If Life Gives You Lemons, which features a compelling lead performance by Giampiero De Concilio; Federico Bondi’s FIPRESCI-winning sophomore narrative feature Dafne, anchored by Carolina Raspanti’s performance as a young woman with Down’s syndrome grappling with the death of her mother; and writer-director Laura Luchetti’s Twin Flower, starring nonprofessional actors Anastasiya Bogach and Kallil Kone as a pair of teenage runaways who forge a relationship haunted by their respective pasts. Additional standouts of the lineup include Euphoria, Valeria Golino’s quietly wrenching portrait of two brothers forced to reckon with their long-unspoken resentments when one falls ill; Edoardo De Angelis’s The Vice of Hope, a stirring survival saga about a desperate woman fighting to escape from her family’s criminal enterprise; and Magical Nights, Paolo Virzi’s murder mystery–cum–film industry satire studded with winking references to Italian-cinema legends.

Open Roads will also feature a special repertory screening of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1962 directorial debut La Commare Secca, a savvy, formally audacious murder mystery adapted from a short story by Pier Paolo Pasolini that marks a fitting introduction to the Italian master, who passed away in November at the age of 77.

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema is co-presented by Film at Lincoln Center and Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Organized by Florence Almozini and Dan Sullivan, Film at Lincoln Center; and by Carla Cattani, Griselda Guerrasio, and Monique Catalino, Istituto Luce Cinecittà.

FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS
All screenings take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street) unless otherwise noted.

Opening Night 
Piranhas / La paranza dei bambini

Claudio Giovannesi, Italy, 2019, 112m
Italian with English subtitles

Claudio Giovannesi (Fiore) returns to Open Roads with this singular coming-of-age story that won the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at the Berlin Film Festival. Newcomer Francesco Di Napoli stars as 15-year-old Nicola, who leads a pack of cocksure hellions captivated by the lifestyle of the local Camorra as they descend into the violent, paranoid world of Naples’s dominant crime group. Based on the novel by Roberto Saviano, who co-wrote the screenplay and mined similar territory in his devastating Gomorrah, Piranhas is a haunting reflection on doomed adolescence. A Music Box Films release.

Capri-Revolution

Mario Martone, France/Italy, 2018, 122m
English and Italian, Neapolitan, French, German, and Russian with English subtitles

The stirring period drama from veteran director Mario Martone centers on Lucia (Marianna Fontana), a young goatherd living on Capri in 1914, when Europe is on the precipice of World War I. Also on the island is a commune of free-spirited, politically radical Northern European artists and intellectuals who have retreated to the lush Mediterranean idyll to put their fledgling ideologies into practice. Chafing at the traditions of her native community, Lucia finds herself drawn to the commune and its idealistic leader—but soon she must reckon with the vast tides of cultural and political change.

La Commare Secca

Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy, 1962, 35mm, 88m
Italian with English subtitles

Bernardo Bertolucci made an auspicious filmmaking debut at 21 with this savvy, meticulous murder mystery adapted from a short story by Pier Paolo Pasolini. When the corpse of a prostitute is discovered near a public park, the police attempt to reconstruct the story of the woman’s death from the recollections of standersby brought in for questioning, presented in flashback sequences. This formally audacious meditation on memory, contingency, and the elusive implications of “realism” marks a fitting introduction to the Italian master, who passed away in November at the age of 77. 35mm print courtesy of Istituto Luce Cinecitta

Dafne

Federico Bondi, Italy, 2019, 94m
Italian with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Dafne (Carolina Raspanti), a young woman with Down syndrome, leads a quiet family life that is upended by the sudden death of her mother. Both Dafne and her father, Luigi (Antonio Piovanelli), struggle to support each other as they differently process this loss: Luigi withdraws into depression, while Dafne gravitates toward greater responsibility at work and at home. Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize in this year’s Berlin Film Festival Panorama, Federico Bondi’s understated sophomore feature gently reorients their mourning into a tender story of perseverance, awash in rich everyday detail and anchored by a magnetic breakout performance by Raspanti.

The Disappearance of My Mother / Storia di B. – La scomparsa di mia madre

Beniamino Barrese, Italy, 2019, 94m
English and Italian with English subtitles

In his directorial debut, cinematographer Beniamino Barrese weaves together new and archival footage spanning decades and continents to craft an intimate, vignette-like documentary portrait of his mother, the renowned Italian model, activist, and feminist educator Benedetta Barzini. Taking this formidable woman as its protagonist, the film adopts an inquisitive stance, delving into her personal and professional history and probing her present-day reality with a son’s affectionate persistence, and ultimately opens up into an exploration of such vast and timeless themes as beauty, womanhood, aging, and image-making, while simultaneously engaging in deeply personal contemplation of the relationship between a mother and her son, and between an artist and his subject. A Kino Lorber release in association with Breaker.

Euphoria / Euforia

Valeria Golino, Italy, 2018, 120m
Italian with English subtitles

Acclaimed leading men Riccardo Scamarcio and Valerio Mastandrea play Matteo and Ettore, two adult brothers living drastically different lives, in actor-director Valeria Golino’s quietly wrenching new drama. When Ettore, a public-school teacher and father of modest means, is diagnosed with an illness, he goes to stay with cosmopolitan Matteo in his sprawling Roman bachelor pad, and Matteo takes charge of overseeing his brother’s medical care. Between appointments with doctors and visits from Ettore’s wife (Isabella Ferrari) and his mistress (Jasmine Trinca), the brothers reckon with long-unresolved tensions and unspoken resentments, and face the implications of Ettore’s failing health, against the thrumming backdrop of the sunny Roman cityscape. Premiered in the 2018 Cannes Un Certain Regard.

If Life Gives You Lemons / Un giorno all’improvviso

Ciro D’Emilio, Italy, 2018, 88m
Italian with English subtitles

Abandoned by his father and left alone to care for his mentally ill mother, 17-year-old high-school dropout Antonio (Giampiero De Concilio) has had to grow up fast, navigating the complexities of the adult world while trying to hold onto what’s left of a normal teenage life. When he’s scouted by a professional soccer team, it seems like the break he’s been waiting for—but a series of calamitous personal crises threaten to derail his dreams. Anchored by a compelling lead performance from its up-and-coming star, this achingly naturalistic coming-of-age drama vividly evokes the world of a young man striving to succeed in the face of overwhelming odds.

Laughing / Ride

Valerio Mastandrea, Italy, 2018, 90m
Italian with English subtitles
North American premiere

After a young man dies in a controversial workplace accident, those who loved him grapple with what it means to go on living: his widow, seemingly unable to cry, questions why she feels so numb; his son sublimates the trauma by rigorously preparing for the media frenzy that will accompany the funeral; his father, haunted by his inability to prevent the tragedy, wrestles with survivor’s guilt. Punctuated by disarming humor and flashes of poetic realism, the feature debut from acclaimed actor Valerio Mastandrea is a powerfully cathartic exploration of the myriad ways we grieve, cope, and find hope in the face of loss.

Loro

Paolo Sorrentino, Italy/France, 2018, 150m
Italian with English subtitles

The Oscar-winning director of The Great Beauty returns with a satirical reimagining of the fall of Silvio Berlusconi (Toni Servillo). Lorooffers ample sex and drugs as it follows Sergio Morra (Riccardo Scamarcio), a power-hungry talent scout who installs himself in a villa next door to Berlusconi with a troupe of young escorts. But the debauchery stands in pointed contrast to the prime minister’s slow decline. Despite Morra’s determination to coax his neighbor to one of his ragers, Berlusconi is dealing with a quieter range of chamber dramas: a long-suffering wife who doesn’t believe in his limp vows of fidelity, a son with whom he’s trying to bond, and a mounting sense of helplessness and apathy as he feels power slipping through his fingers. Somewhere at the intersection of Fellini and Scarface, Sorrentino locates the weakening pulse of a political era. An IFC Films release.

Lucia’s Grace / Troppa Grazia

Gianni Zanasi, Italy/Greece/Spain, 2018, 110m
Italian with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Alba Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro, I Am Love) stars as a land surveyor and single mother whose compassion is tested when she learns that her new building project threatens the environmental safety of the city. While she is torn between her decision to speak up or keep her job, a mysterious woman enters Lucia’s already chaotic life and proposes she build a church on the site. Lucia’s Grace, which was the Closing Night selection of the 2018 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, is a pleasantly original comedy about faith and acceptance in the modern world, and a showcase of Rohrwacher’s emotional range and flair for physical comedy. 

Magical Nights / Notti magiche

Paolo Virzì, Italy, 2018, 125m
Italian with English subtitles
North American Premiere

The latest from maestro Paolo Virzì (Human Capital) is a sparkling murder mystery and film industry satire set in the early 1990s, the tail end of Italian cinema’s golden age, when neorealism and commedia all’italiana gave way to a culture of excess, greed, and artistic stagnation. When a famous film producer is found dead in the Tiber River, suspicion falls on three young screenwriters who, when they are hauled in for questioning, recount their wild adventures navigating Rome’s declining film industry. Studded with winking references to Italian cinema legends, Magical Nights is Virzì’s loving yet irreverent glance back to the not-so-good old days.

Normal

Adele Tulli, Italy, 2019, 67m
Italian with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Atmospheric vignettes in such striking settings as a doctor’s office, a toy factory, and a dirt bike rally build off of one another in Adele Tulli’s stylized documentary, which reckons with the ever-changing norms around gender identity. Through a diverse cross-section of Italian society—including tween pop idols, stage parents, socialites, gamers, and soon-to-be-newlyweds—Tulli finds a humanistic pathos, whether it be in the solitary gaze of a young child, or in the mass groupthink of an exercise class. A standout from the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section, Normal is a sweeping work of anthropology that looks at the ways that conventional gender expression is instilled and reinforced.

Ricordi?

Valerio Mieli, Italy/France, 2018, 106m
Italian with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Nine years after his debut feature, Ten Winters, played in Open Roads, Valerio Mieli returns with an evocative romance about an unnamed, archetypal couple (Luca Marinelli and Isabella Ragonese) wrestling with the passage of time. When they move into the house where Marinelli’s character spent his childhood summers, the past resurfaces in sensory bursts and exerts a profound hold on him; meanwhile, she struggles to overcome his anxieties about the inevitability of change. Ricordi? is an earthy meditation on love that’s pushed and pulled by the tidal waves of memory.

Selfie

Agostino Ferrente, France/Italy, 2019, 78m
Italian with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Several years after an unarmed teenager was shot by police in the Traiano region of Naples, filmmaker Agostino Ferrente traveled to the gang-ravaged neighborhood to make a documentary about the lives of its young people—for whom the prospect of being swept up in Camorra activity perpetually looms. The film’s central subjects are Alessandro and Pietro, 16-year-old best friends whom Ferrente recruited to film themselves using smartphones in “selfie” mode as they go about their daily lives. The result is at once lyrical and raw, a deceptively offhand, richly moving chronicle of adolescent friendship in a social microcosm shaped by economic precarity, conflicting moralities, and the improbable persistence of hope.

Sono Gassman! Vittorio re della commedia

Fabrizio Corallo, Italy, 2018, 94m
Italian with English subtitles
North American Premiere

This brisk, engaging documentary surveys the life, work, and legacy of Vittorio Gassman, the Italian screen icon who began his illustrious career as a serious dramatic stage actor before going on to subvert that image in classic works of commedia all’italiana by Mario Monicelli (Big Deal on Madonna Street), Dino Risi (Il Sorpasso), and Ettore Scola (We All Loved Each Other So Much). Through a wealth of interviews, film clips, and archival footage, Sono Gassman! reveals how Gassman’s comedic screen persona cannily reflected and critiqued mid-20th-century Italian society, while shedding light on the complex inner life of the man himself.

Twin Flower / Fiore Gemello

Laura Luchetti, Italy, 2018, 96m
Italian and French with English subtitles

In writer-director Laura Luchetti’s strikingly photographed second feature, two teenage runaways forge a relationship haunted by their respective pasts. Anna (Anastasiya Bogach) is eluding a human trafficker for whom her father worked, and Basim (Kallil Kone) is a refugee from the Ivory Coast in search of gainful employment. Together they embark on a dangerous trip across the tough but breathtaking terrain of Sardinia in the hopes of overcoming their personal demons. The remarkable chemistry between Bogach and Kone—both nonprofessional actors—carries Luchetti’s powerful film about coming of age in the throes of the refugee crisis. Received Honorable Mention for the Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) at TIFF 2018.

The Vice of Hope / Il vizio della speranza

Edoardo De Angelis, Italy, 2018, 96m
Italian with English subtitles

A compassionate woman desperately fights to escape the criminal life she was born into in this breathless tale of resilience and inner strength. Maria (Pina Turco) assists her aunt in the family business of trafficking pregnant women through the shadowy, black market baby underground. When she helps one of the women escape, Maria—now pregnant herself—is plunged deeper into the underworld than she is prepared to go. Capturing the grey, rubble-strewn bleakness of its lawless port town setting in immersive, tension-building tracking shots, this stirring survival saga finds unexpected grace in a seemingly hopeless world. Winner of Best Actress (Pina Turco) and Best Director at the Tokyo International Film Festival 2018.

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