A CASTLE IN ITALY

Day Eleven of the 2014 Rendez Vous with French Cinema

LastChanceValeria Bruni Tedeschi’s new film A Castle in Italy (which she directed, co-wrote, and stars in as “Louise Rossi Levi”) is a semi-autobiographical dramedy which pays homage to modern classics like Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and Visconti’s Sandra, but with a thoroughly contemporary twist.

Louise is an Italian actress who has had some success, but she is now in her early 40s and no longer appears on screen. (Whether this is thru lack of will or lack of opportunity is never specified.)

When we first meet Louise, she has returned to Italy to deal with family issues which include her mother’s finances and her brother’s health–both of which are already bad and rapidly growing worse.

Marisa Borini (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s real mother) plays Louise’s mother in A Castle in Italy, and even though she never gets a first name, Borini still steals the show. Although she tries to give some attention to practical issues, all she can really think about is her son “Ludovic” (Filippo Timi), and watching him slip away is every mother’s agony.

To keep her film bittersweet–instead of simply tragic–VBT transforms herself a bit of a dunce. After a meet cute with a young actor named “Nathan” (Louis Garrel), Louise decides she wants to become pregnant. Her sudden desire for a child results in comic altercations with nurses and nuns, but there is no escape from Ludovic’s death which brings the family lineage to an end just as its fortune is exhausted. (JLH: 3.5/5)

Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. Not yet seen by Rich.

LastDance

Top Photo: “Nathan” (Louis Garrel) and “Louise” (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) have a very public argument on a street in Paris.

Bottom Photo: A mother (Marisa Borini) has one last dance with her beloved son (Filippo Timi).

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Sharmill Films.

OPEN QUESTION:

The family name, “Rossi Levi,” implies that there is some Jewish blood in these people even though their religious observances are clearly Catholic. Just like in Visconti’s Sandra, these Jewish references are unsettling and never adequately explained. What are we to make of these dead Jewish fathers who have left their children huge debt-ridden estates?

FINAL QUESTION:

Does A Castle in Italy pass the Bechdel Test? Yes! DigitalStampA

Louise doesn’t seem to have any female friends, colleagues, or acquaintances, but she does have a warm and close (yest suitably fractious) relationship with her mother. And once Ludovic is dead, Louise will obviously need to stay close to ensure that her mother retains her ability to go on living.

But by crafting the hilarious auction scene–complete with a cameo appearance by the still-gorgeous Omar Sharif–VBT (with her writing partners Agnès de Sacy and Noémie Lvovsky ) have done much to assure us that the life force inside both women will stay strong even after Ludovic has become a memory.

Tags: A Castle in Italy, Marisa Borini, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi

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