There’s no denying that it’s been a bit of a strange year for film lovers. It was supposed to be a big one here in Italy: plans were in place to celebrate the centenary of Fellini’s birth, numerous new festivals were due to launch and the release schedule was packed. Sadly, as has been the case for so many sectors, COVID-19 turned these plans upside down. Cinemas have been closed for months, events have been cancelled and some projects have been shelved indefinitely. Nevertheless, despite the chaos, a few Italian films have slipped through the cracks and have made it to general release, including the odd gem.
From dramatic thrillers to slapstick comedy, these are the best original titles you can get streaming right now, while we all wait for better times ahead.
THE BEST YEARS
Looking for a cheesy warm-hearted Italian film to lose yourself in while practicing your language skills? This is the one. The film tells the story of a group of friends as they traverse the passing of years, falling in and out of love, and learning how to live among the complex political-economic changes of the 70s and 80s. Really, though, this is just an excuse to enjoy gorgeous shots of Rome and fantasize about dinner parties and sunset streets crowded with motorini. Cinematic junk food? Maybe. But I guarantee: this will be your next guilty pleasure.
THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS
Simply gorgeous. Set in Piemonte, in the foothills of the Alps, this tender documentary follows the lives of the men, women, and dogs who spend their springs and autumns out in the forests hunting for the mythical, and much-coveted, white truffle. The directors, Gregory Kershaw and Michael Dweck, and co-producer Luca Guadagnino, have thrown themselves at their subject with real passion here. This is a slow, poetic tribute to a vanishing way of life. While the film was originally released for the festival circuit only it will be online from 25 December, perfect for those post-Christmas afternoons.
Roll over marriage story. This is what a break-up film should look like. Set between Rome and Naples in the 1980s, this intense drama follows Vanda and Aldo, a couple whose relationship begins to crack under the strain of an affair but, on a more fundamental level, the collapse of their youthful ideals. While the tone is rather dark, it never feels oppressive, and the director, Daniele Luchetti, instead opts for an unflinching, almost stoical, realism. Alba Rohrwacher’s performance as Valda stands out in particular and confirms her status as one of the most talented actresses working in Italy today.
This pleasingly zany indie flick from Davide Del Degan captures everything that’s good about Italian cinema today. The story follows a young Sicilian man who is put into witness protection in an isolated Alpine town after witnessing a mafia murder. Due to a bureaucratic mistake on the part of the programme director’s, however, he finds himself in the same town where the murderer himself lives. OK it’s a ridiculous premise, but go with it: the script is original, and highly accomplished, while the cinematography itself brings a welcome Wed Anderson-like charm to the storytelling. You will not have seen anything like this before.
Italian cinema has always excelled when it comes to dramas about feuding families. Bad Tales is the undisputed heir to that mantle for 2020. The film follows the residents in a lower-middle-class suburb of Rome as they face the grim realisation that their dreams of wealth and happiness may not be achievable after all. The fact that the whole drama unfolds through the eyes of the children only adds another level of complexity to this disturbing and highly accomplished arthouse work.
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Checco Zalone, Italy’s most renowned living comic actor, knows how to provoke his audience. His latest film, Tolo Tolo tells the story of a failing entrepreneur who, fed up with Italian bureaucracy, decides to make a living for himself in Kenya. Disaster strikes, however, when ISIS takes the country over, and he has no choice but to return to Europe as a refugee. This was, obviously, a risky premise, and it’s true that Zalone treads a fine line here between poking fun at racists, and perpetuating stereotypes himself. This is a flawed work, but it’s daring all the same and overall it succeeds in its aim of