Wednesday, 27 May 2009

13 Italian Films (Worth Reading the Subtitles For)

Okay, I ran short on ideas this week, so I'm going to do
13 Italian Films (Worth Reading the Subtitles For)

Here they are, in no particular order...

1) Chiedimi se Sono Felice - "Ask Me if I'm Happy"

Not only is this flick hilarious, but oftentimes subtitles are irrelevant. That's the great thing about comedies, isn't it? This is a great film, and along with the title track and soundtrack by Samuele Bersani (my muse, let's be honest), I was inspired to give my current WIP the same name.
(That's allowed, right? Okay. Good.)

2) Pane e Tulipani - "Bread and Tulips"

Another comedy, this time a more direct "Romantic Comedy" about a housewife/mother who has become part of the scenery, as far as her family is concerned. In fact, they don't even notice when she misses the tour bus home from a holiday! After finagling a ride, she impulsively runs away to Venice, where she finds a job, a new love, and a new purpose in life. No, that hasn't given away the ending. ;)

3) Anche Libero Va Bene - (known as) "Along the Ridge" in the English markets

Kim Rossi Stuart starred in and directed this film about a dysfunctional family learning to cope with the coming and going of their mentally unstable mother. Her disappearances and reappearances continually tear the family apart, leading to more trouble for the angry and sometimes openly raging father. Meanwhile, the son seeks a better life for himself through a wealthy friend who lives nearby. Sounds depressing, but really it isn't.

4) Romanzo Criminale - "Crime Novel"

This is one of those odd films which prove to be both commercially successful and have cult popularity. Based on a true story, this film shows the rise and fall of a small group of friends who take on the mafia in Rome to become a powerful crime family in their own right. Powerful performances from Kim Rossi Stuart, Pierfrancesco Favino (who won the Italian equivalent of the Oscar for his performance), and Claudio Santamaria (among others) bring this compelling story to life. The end of all involved proves that crime isn't glamorous, and the innocent pay a price, as well.

5) Pinocchio

Roberto Benigni retold this classic in his own unique way - staying true to the story and bringing fantastic performances from all around. Sure, you're skeptical - how can a man Benigni's age portray the titular wooden boy? Just trust me on this - he can. And if that doesn't do it for you, we have Kim Rossi Stuart as Lucignolo, who makes the mischevious boy's turning into a donkey honest-to-goodness tragic. Forget Disney - this is the real Pinocchio. No lie! ;-)

6) La Vita e' Bella - "Life is Beautiful"

Simply put, there's a reason Benigni won the Oscar for this. Simply put, Life is Beautiful, even when it isn't.

7) La Tigre e La Neve - "The Tiger and the Snow"

A lesser-known film by Benigni, but a wonderful story of love and devotion, and what we're willing to do to save those we love. Watch it and don't cry - I challenge you!

8) La Stanza del Figlio - "The Son's Room"

I resisted watching this for two years, because I knew it was a sad story. Still, I'm glad I finally did. A family struggles with the sudden accidental loss of their son, and discover secrets he'd kept from them all along. Surprisingly, those very secrets might help them all to heal.

9) La Meglio Gioventu' - "The Best of Youth" (US title)

This is actually more a miniseries than a film, but if you watch for it, you can find it on Sundance Channel in the US. The series follows the lives of two brothers, who live their lives through some of the major events in the last thirty years of Italian history. One brother is moved to save a young woman from the cruelties she endures in a mental hospital, and when his plan backfires, he moves on to a life of military discipline in the army and police force. The other brother becomes a doctor, works on behalf of patients' rights in mental hospitals (also inspired by his connection to the same young woman), and becomes linked to the Red Brigades via his politically radical wife. It sounds heavy, but it isn't. It sounds Forrest Gump-ish, but it's not. It's one of the best films produced in Italy in recent years, and well worth the time invested to see it from beginning to end.

10)La Finestra di Fronte - "Facing Windows"

Giovanna is a wife and mother struggling to find her identity. She works two jobs, loves her husband, her two kids, her friend and coworker, and she has a slight fascination with the man who lives in the building directly across from her. After her husband insists on helping an old man struggling with disorientation, she finds herself taking care of him, instead. Soon, she discovers a World War II era story of forbidden love which mirrors her developing relationship with Lorenzo, the man across the way. Soon she finds that Lorenzo has his own fascination with her, and she is tempted to discover if she really could find a better life with someone else. Sexy, sophisticated, and with an unexpected twist which will leave you debating just what makes a "happy ending," this is a beautifully directed film.
And heck, it's got Raoul Bova in glasses. RAWR!

11) Io Non Ho Paura - "I'm Not Scared"

By turns creepy and thought-provoking, this story of a forgotten 1970's Italy (inspired by real events) will have you jumping out of and then hanging on the edge of your seat, by the climax. Young Michele makes a gruesome discovery in the hills near his home: a dead body of a young boy, around his age. Which moves. And speaks. In reality, the body is another young boy, a kidnap victim, who is the son of wealthy Milanese parents. As Michele struggles to understand how this boy got there, and why he can't seem to leave his prison, he soon discovers there's much, much more to the story than he'd ever dreamed. Quite literally, nothing is as it seems, and he is determined to set things right.

12) I Soliti Ignoti - "The Usual Unknowns" (US title: "Big Deal on Madonna Street")

A true Italian classic, and one of the funniest films I've ever seen. EVER. When a gang of bumbling misfits attempts to steal a fortune from a jewelry store safe, absolutely NOTHING goes right. From the planning to the final attempt, it's just one goofy mistake after another, which could well leave you breathless with laughter. This is the original "Heist Gone Wrong" film, and has been remade twice - once as "Crackers" starring Donald Sutherland, and more recently as "Welcome to Collinwood" starring William H. Macy (in the Marcello Mastroianni role), Sam Rockwell and George Clooney. Trust me, go with the original. (and I loved "Collinwood" too!)

13) Le Chiavi di Casa - "The Keys to the House"

Inspired by the book "Born Twice", this story is about a father (Kim Rossi Stuart) reuniting with the disabled son (Andrea Rossi, no relation) he'd abandoned after his wife died in childbirth. Having decided to take his son to Berlin for his therapy, he is dropped into a life vastly different from the one he now lives with his wife and newborn child. As their bond grows, the challenges of caring for a disabled child are revealed in scathing, realistic detail, highlighted by the wisdom and struggle of a sympathetic mother (Charlotte Rampling) of a girl who stays in the same hospital. This is without a doubt one of my favorite films of all time.

No, of course I didn't forget. Scroll down, please.

And, since he's been in demand, as of late...

And since he's a perennial favorite...

And because he doesn't have to be bare to drive us wild...

I give you...

Raoul Bova - Italian Actor/Model/hunk of yum!


Thursday, 21 May 2009

13 Pics Which Inspire My Writing

13 Pics Which Inspire My Writing

Okay, y'all... We all have 'em. Those particular photos, images, impressions, whatever, which seem never to fail to inspire us. Whether we're writers or artists or musicians, there's just something about certain images and feelings which drives us to create.

This week, I thought I'd share a handful of mine, and let you see what happened as a result of the inspiration I found. These are in no particular order, however...

1) Riccardo Scamarcio - Actor

It's that time of year again. The days are longer, the sun is hotter, and everyone heads out to the beach or the mountains for some relief from the heat. At least, that's how it works in Italy. And just like last summer, Eros, my sexually ambiguous bagnino (that's lifeguard to the English speakers, eh?) starts asking when I'll tell his story, for a change. In my head, before I'd even considered casting him, I'd described him in my notes like this:
"Lean, muscular frame. Tanned from spending full days in the sun. Dark, wavy hair. Brilliant blue eyes. Young. Not awkward, yet lacking a certain self-confidence." Then I saw Riccardo, and I said, "There he is!"

2/3) Daniele Bennati - Cyclist

I have the same situation when cycling season rolls around. (Heh.) Daniele here provides a lot of inspiration, as do several other cyclists. I'm concocting a short story at the moment, but I need a little more research before I can even give the character a name. In the meantime, I'm just gonna enjoy the pics. ...sigh...

4/5) Alessandro Gassman - Actor

Son of the famous (and incredible) Italian actor Vittorio Gassman, Alessandro is not someone I'd thought of for a character until recently. Burbling away in the back of my head are a few plot pots which are leaning toward using his "persona" and having a little fun. Short stories, I think. I hope so, since I'm just wrapping up a novel that's taken nearly two years...

6) Gonzalo Canale - rugby player

No characters here, yet. I just like the pic. :) I don't normally like the bigger guys, but... I mean... DANG, y'all!

7) Julien Arias - Rugby player

This pic reminds me of countless Romance covers, sure... But this is simply a gorgeous example of black/white photography, and is uber-sexy for what it's none-too-subtly hinting at, no?

8/9) Samuele Bersani - Singer/Songwriter

The inspiration for the character of Davide in my current opus, these pics, taken by Monica Silva (whom I adore in her own right) capture that certain something I mentioned at the opening. I find these shots mischevious, sexy and playful all at the same time. I also think they're awfully gosh-darn smart, somehow.

10/11) Luca Argentero - Actor

This shot made me sigh with happiness the first time I saw it. Why? Because, in combination/addition to the shots of Samuele above, I "saw" Davide in it. Somewhere between Samuele and Luca, I find Davide. Neither one of them is him, precisely, but in the nebulous neverland in my head, he's. right. THERE.

This is Luca as I've displayed him before, as eye candy. Yum, no?

12/13) Raoul Bova - Actor

*ahem* Yeah, I don't need a lot of explanation here, do I? The first time I'd seen him and noticed him was in Under the Tuscan Sun. Now I've seen him in other films, interviews, and of course calendars, and I have to say, I like him more and more - and not just as a lust object. Mostly. I think...

14/15) Kim Rossi Stuart - Actor

Kim is unusual in that he has come to personify two rather different characters in two different tales:
a) Jacopo, the wealthy Venetian charmer who seduces and betrays Emily in Ask Me if I'm Happy, and
b) Angelo, the Modenese environmental engineer who courts single mother Chiara in Grand Emilia.
Neither pic is precisely the character, and yet, both are spot on in the emotions they invoke in me.

Whenever I look at these pics, I'm inspired anew, and can't wait to get back to work on these stories. I have a lot of work to do, so I'd better get back to it, eh?

And in spite of the plethora of lovelies, this week, I'm going to give you just one more.

Because I wouldn't feel right about it, if I didn't.

'cause it's been a while, and I feel bad for that...

So, here you go...

Enjoy, and remember...

Lift with the legs, y'all!

Ciao for now!