Italian landscapes

  • by David Lamble
  • Tuesday November 27, 2018
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Now in its 22nd year, the 2018 edition of the New Italian Cinema Film Festival returns with a youth-must-be-served theme. The festival, sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute, presents 10 feature films over three days (11/30-12/2) at San Francisco's Vogue Theatre. Today's Italian filmmakers are just as devoted to life's darker hues as their forefathers in the Fellini/Antonioni era of the late 1940s-70s. The boys may be cute, but they are anything but sweet. Below find capsules of the fest's features.

"As Needed" Director Francesco Falaschi sets his road comedy in the world of Italy's primo chefs. We meet Arturo (the crafty Vinicio Marchioni) as he's finishing the community-service part of a short prison stint due to anger management issues. Arturo's assignment is to travel to a cooking contest with a talented young chef. Guido (spirited newcomer Luigi Fedele) is a high-functioning Asperger's kid who recalls every ingredient in every recipe he's ever prepared. On the road to Florence, Arturo and Guido bond in odd, endearing ways in a road comedy that will take them through some beautiful byways in the Italian countryside. (11/30)

"Here and Now" This nimbly shot noir will remind some fans of classic Italian cinema such as the 1953 Fellini masterpiece "I Vitelloni," where handsome idle youth acquire bad habits as ordinary rites of passage. Director Fabio Martina opens his tale with three friends navigating the slums of Milan in an expensive SUV. Showing off, the driver, pretty-boy Cosimo, abruptly stops near a public park where he and his buddies brutally attack an innocent victim. Full of themselves, the boys keep upping the ante until they find themselves unable to stay on top of the cruel game. Homoerotic shots of unhinged youth will remind some of a more recent Italian classic, Matteo Garrone's 2009 crime bash "Gomorrah," where skinny, swimsuit-clad young hoods brandish machine guns before taking their own fatal plunge in a society still dominated by crime families. (12/1)

"The Last Italian Cowboys" This rural doc from director Walter Bencini captures a male culture in decline: the now-elderly horsemen who watch over cattle and horses in a stretch of grassland around Tuscany. (12/1)

"Boys Cry" This brutal little drama, shot by brothers Damiano and Fabio D'Innocenzo, focuses on the ambitions of two handsome pizza delivery boys. An accident propels them from school to a precarious niche on a local crime don's hit-list. Matteo Olivetti and Andrea Carpenzano are the cocky Mirko and Manola, doomed youth trapped in a hood far tougher than either one of them suspects. (12/2)

"Manuel" Director Dario Albertini provides a youth to admire in this neorealist drama. The film kicks off with our 18-year-old hero leaving a state school where he was remanded after his mom's arrest. Andrea Lattanzi gives a heartfelt performance as a young man who strives to get the last years of his mother's sentence converted to house arrest. (12/2)

"Easy" Andrea Magnani presents the story of a young man nicknamed "Easy" who finds himself out of a job as a go-kart driver after a unexpected weight gain. His depression is lifted when his brother hands him a new driving assignment: deliver the coffin of a worker from Italy to a remote part of the Ukraine. (12/2)

"Hotel Gagarin" Director Simone Spada tells the tale of five young aspiring filmmakers whose dreams are upset by a flim-flam artist. Stranded in the snowbound Hotel Gagarian in a remote part of Armenia, the five are threatened by a nearby outbreak of fighting. Giuseppe Battiston stars as Nicola, a history teacher amazed to think that a script of his could actually by filmed. Silvia D'Amico is a mood-swinging wannabe actress. Plays with the short "The Whole World, One Step at a Time." Gianmarco D'Agostino's short doc profiles Bangladeshi kids and efforts to improve their lot. (12/1)

Closing night, Dec. 2, is devoted to two one-hour docs.

"Open to the Public" Director Silvia Bellotti appears in person to present her study about how Naples' 40,000 housing units are allocated. The film documents despair mixed with low farce.

"The Call" Enrico Maisto shows jury selection Italian-style with this peek at how Milan authorities select the brave citizens who will judge suspects accused of serious crimes, including mass shootings. (Both 12/2)