Romance and politics in Italian Film Festival

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 27, 2014 - 2:03 PM

Youthful romance. Leftist politics. Documentaries and comedies. All are part of the Italian Film Festival.

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Clara Ponsot and Riccardo Scamarcio in “Cosimo and Nicole.”

The Italian Cultural Center of Minneapolis and St. Paul charts that nation’s changing face with its Sixth Annual Italian Film Festival. The event, March 6-9, includes eight feature films, shorts and moderated discussions. The series looks back to past glories with documentary entries celebrating Verdi and Fellini. It looks forward in comedies and dramas grappling with modern political skullduggery, financial hardships and immigrant issues. And, of course, there’s always amore.

Contemporary life in all its perplexing complexity is on display in “Cosimo and Nicole.” Riccardo Scamarcio and Clara Ponsot star as a rootless Italian guy and French girl who meet in the street chaos of Genoa’s G8 Summit protests. Young and beautiful, they quickly become lovers and roadies for a rock promoter. Their live-for-the-moment philosophy is tested when an illegal immigrant co-worker is injured in an accident that could bankrupt their roadshow. For the first time they must take moral responsibility for actions that can create lifelong consequences. Richly atmospheric, wryly observed and unabashedly hedonistic, the film combines stark worry and sheer joy in ways that only the young can pull off.

The always outstanding Toni Servillo plays a dual role in “Long Live Freedom,” as a world-weary leftist politician, and his twin, an upbeat but unstable intellectual. As electoral defeat looms, the senator impulsively relocates to Paris to be with an old lover (whose new family is quite casually welcoming). The philosopher is persuaded to step into his sibling’s shoes for a few days and takes to the new role, delivering stirring speeches that begin to shift the election’s course. Servillo is a marvel, playing the one man’s manic confidence and the other’s battle-scarred disenchantment with equal dexterity.

“Sacred Heart” follows a successful real estate developer who begins an unexpected career path after a chance encounter with a precocious thief. Barbora Bobulova plays the businesswoman who, to her colleagues’ horror, devotes her life to good works, giving her properties to the poor. Andrea Di Stefano, a Botticelli angel come to life, plays the nervy crook whose crimes are not so badly motivated as they seem. As Bobulova begins to live the Franciscan ideal of charity and poverty, literally giving away the clothes on her back to strangers, her business partners hope she’ll be institutionalized as a lunatic.

The festival begins with an opening-night reception and screening of “Sacred Heart” at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts on March 6. It continues at St. Anthony Main through March 9. For a complete schedule and ticketing, visit mplsfilmsociety.org.

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186

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