Geneva Anderson digs into art

Benvenuto Novembre! New Italian Cinema starts Wednesday, November 13, with a line-up of 14 new films and a spotlight on Neapolitan cinema, through Sunday, at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre

Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” (La grande bellezza, Italy/France 2013) is the Closing Night film at New Italian Cinema, November 13 – 17, 2013.  Sorrentino, one of Italy’s most influential film director’s, will attend.  Set in Rome, the film has been described as a Technicolor “La Dolce Vita” for the Berlusconi era, allegorically asking what has happened in Italy?  Image: San Francisco Film Society

Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” (La grande bellezza, Italy/France 2013) is the Closing Night film at New Italian Cinema, November 13 – 17, 2013. Sorrentino, one of Italy’s most influential film director’s, will attend. Set in Rome, the film has been described as a Technicolor “La Dolce Vita” for the Berlusconi era, allegorically asking what has happened in Italy? Image: San Francisco Film Society

Celebrating its 17th year, New Italian Cinema (NIC) is the much-loved annual festival of newly-released Italian films which comes to San Francisco every November.  NIC opens tomorrow, November 13, at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre with Garibaldi’s Lovers, the latest film from Silvio Soldini (Days and Clouds, 2007), and will feature a Closing Night tribute to Paolo Sorrentino (This Must Be the Place, 2011) that includes a screening of his new film The Great Beauty.   NIC 2013 will screen a total of 14 new films, including a three-film spotlight of recent Neapolitan cinema and eight terrific features by up-and-coming directors entered in the City of Florence Award competition.  Decided by audience ballot, this annual award is announced at Closing Night on Sunday, November 17.  There is also a fabulous Closing Night Party at 1300 On Fillmore, known for Chef David Lawrence’s inspired soul food and its smooth jazz.  The program eases into weekend by offering two films on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings starting and four films on both Saturday and Sunday.

NIC provides the opportunity not only to see these films before they are widely available (and some will always be difficult to find outside Italy) but also to experience them presented by directors, actors, producers and other involved parties, and to participate in lively Q&A’s about the films. Attending this year: Silvio Soldini, director, Garibaldi’s Lovers (Opening Night film); Paolo Sorrentino, director, The Great Beauty (Closing Night film); Stefano Mordini, director, Steel; and actor Luigi Maria Burruano who appears in The Ideal City.   Thematically, this year’s NIC delves into issues of economic instability, cultural and familial conflict and metropolitan living.

NIC is organized by the San Francisco Film Society, in collaboration with New Italian Cinema Events ( and Italian Cultural Institute, San Francisco, under the auspices of the Consulate General of Italy. NIC is one of more than 200 participating events taking place in more than 50 American cities this year in recognition of 2013 The Year of Italian Culture in the United States.

The charming venue, Clay Theatre, situated on the busting Fillmore Street, was built in 1910 and is one of the oldest theatres in San Francisco (refurbished with comfortable new seats).

ARThound recommends:

Thursday 6:45 pm: There Will Come a Day (Un giorno devi andare) (Georgio Diritti, Italy/France 2013)

Having suffered the double whammy of losing her baby and then being abandoned by her husband for her inability to have children, soulful Augusta (Jasmine Trinca) flees Italy for the Brazilian Amazon to restore some meaning to her life.  There, hoping to do aid work, she joins up with Franca, a hard-line Catholic whose conversion tactics clash with her own spiritual values.  As the two women float down the river in a houseboat ministering to indigenous peoples, Augusta grows increasingly frustrated and leaves.  She ultimately ends up in the favelas in the port city of Manaus doing work that seems authentic and right for her.  Depicting Augusta’s journey with compassion and complexity and an often astonishing visual magnificence, director Giorgio Diritti’s second feature film is a work of great beauty about finding one’s place in this world, something all of us grapple with.  Diritti (The Man Who Will Come, SFIFF 2010) also address important issues like the surge in World Evangelism, the displacement of poor Brazilians (in preparation for the World Cup and Olympics), the Amazon’s fragile ecology, and the widening disparity between rich and poor.  Augusta’s story is delicately interwoven with that of her mother and new adoptive sister whose set-backs and own emotional wounding make for a compelling story of suffering, growth, and spiritual healing.  Features aerial shots of the grandeur of the Amazon.  110 minutes.


Sunday 6:00 pm Closing Night Film: The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza, Paolo Sorrentino, Italy/France 2013)

(Sunday 6:00 pm Closing Night Film) The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza, Paolo Sorrentino, Italy/France 2013)  In Italian, “grande bellezza,” like “grande tristezza,” can relate to love, sex, art, or death.  In Paolo Sorrentino’s swooning epic, it refers to Rome, and Sorrentino evokes the eternal city with exacting panache, melancholy, and knowing.  It’s also been hailed as a very timely reflection on the excesses and stagnation of Italy in the era of prime minister Berlusconi.  The film premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival where it was a contender for the Palme d’Or and has been selected as the Italian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards.  It reunites Sorrentino with his favorite leading man, Toni Servillo, Italy’s leading stage and screen actor, who has starred in three of his previous films— films One Man Up (2001), The Consequences of Love (2004), and Il Divo (2008).  Servillo plays aging Roman playboy Jep Gambardella, a man who wrote one promising novel in his youth and, since then, has lived on its fumes.  A cultivated gentleman by day; at night, Jep chases away death and introspection by hosting wild parties to the stylish elite at night.  Following his 65th birthday and a shocking news about a long lost love, Jep looks beyond his shallow and amusing world to find a timeless Roman landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty—a classic in the high Italian style of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Antonioni’s La Notte.  (142 mins.)

New Italian Cinema 2013 line up:

6:15pm Opening Night Film: Garibaldi’s Lovers (Silvio Soldini, 2012) filmmaker attending*
9:00pm Napoli 24 (Multiple Directors, 2010) Neapolitan Retrospective*

6:30pm Balancing Act (Ivano De Matteo, 2012)
6:45pm There Will Come a Day (Georgio Diritti, 2013)

6:30pm Steel (Stefano Mordini, 2012)  filmmaker attending*
9:00pm Cosimo and Nicole (Francesco Amato, 2013)

12:15pm We Believed (Mario Martone, 2010)  Neapolitan Retrospective*
4:15pm Ali Blue Eyes (Claudio Giovannesi, 2012)
6:30pm Out of the Blue (Edorado Leo, 2013)
9:00pm The Interval (Leonardo di Costanzo, 2012)

1:00pm Gorbaciof (Stefano Incerti, 2010)  Neapolitan Retrospective*
3:00pm The Ideal City (Luigi Lo Cascio, 2012)  Luigi Maria Burruano, actor, attending*
6:00pm Closing Night Film: The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013) filmmaker attending*
9:15pm Closing Night Reception at 1300 on Fillmore
9:30pm One Man Up (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)

Details: New Italian Cinema is November 13-17, 2013 at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore Street, San Francisco. (Please click here for a map of the location.) Film tickets $12 for SFFS members, $14 general, $13 seniors, students and persons with disabilities, $10 children (12 and under); Closing Night film and party tickets $20 for SFFS members, $25 general; Fall Season CineVoucher 10-Packs $110 for SFFS members, $130 general.  Purchase tickets online here.

November 12, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian director Gabriele Lavia talk about Verdi’s opera “Attila,” at San Francisco Opera through July 1, 2012

It isn’t often that I get the chance to chat with Maestro Nicola Luisotti, San Francisco Opera’s Music Director, whose passionate conducting and dynamic presence have transformed our opera experience in San Francisco.  I caught up with Maestro Luisotti and Italian theatre and film director, Gabriele Lavia, last Sunday in San Francisco at the opening of Tuscan painter Domenico Monteforte’s exhibition, “Toscana,” at Italian Cultural Institute. Surrounded by Monteforte’s vividly expressive landscapes, some of which were painted on Verdi’s musical scores, Luisotti improvised on the piano while Lavia recited poems from memory by Giacomo Leopardi, Italy’s revered 19th century lyric poet, who wrote almost exclusively about the pain of life.  After the performance, Luisotti and Lavia, longtime friends, agreed to chat informally with me about their collaboration on San Francisco Opera’s Attila, which opened to rave reviews last Tuesday (June 12, 2012).

Co-produced with Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and directed by Gabriele Lavia, this new performance of Verdi’s rarely performed opera is set in three different periods of Italy’s history: ancient Rome circa 450 AD; the Viennese occupation of the early 1800’s; and the present day.  Luisotti conducted the production in Milan and conducts it again in San Francisco.

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian theater and film director Gabriele Lavia discuss their friendship and collaboration on Verdi’s “Attila,” which opened at San Francisco Opera on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. 

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian theater and film director Gabriele Lavia discuss rehearsing Verdi’s “Attila,” which opened at San Francisco Opera on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. 

Gabriele Lavia talks about directing “Attila” in San Francisco and at Italy’s Teatro alla Scala (La Scala)

Details:  San Francisco Opera’s Attila runs for six performances: June 12, June 15, June 20, June 23, June 28, and July 1, 2012 at the War Memorial Opera House. Tickets and information: or call (415) 864-3330.

Casting:  Legendary Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto heads the cast as Attila; Venezuelan soprano Lucrecia Garcia is Odabella; baritone and former Adler Fellow Quinn Kelsey sings as Ezio; renowned bass Samuel Ramey is Pope Leo I.

June 17, 2012 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Toscana”: Painter Domenico Monteforte’s lyrical homage to his native Tuscany opens Sunday at the Italian Cultural Institute —Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian director Gabriele Lavia will speak at Sunday’s reception

Domenico Monteforte paints landscapes on musical scores of Tuscan-born composer Giacomo Puccini. His solo exhibition, “Toscana,” is June 10-August 20, 2012, at the Italian Cultural Institute, San Francisco. “In Pine,” mixed media, 40 x 60 cm. Photo: courtesy Domenico Monteforte

One of the best experiences you can have is seeing something familiar in something new.  The magnificent pine and cypress trees that figure prominently in Tuscan painter Domenico Monteforte’s landscapes echo the sculptural oaks that grace the golden rolling hills of our Sonoma.  Monteforte’s solo painting exhibition, Toscana, opens this Sunday, June 10, 2012 and runs through August 20, 2012, at the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco.  Toscana features thirty of his recent paintings, including landscapes that lyrically capture the region’s unique and remarkable light and nature, as well as landscapes painted on musical scores of Tuscan-born composer Giacomo Puccini.

“Everything in my work hearkens back from there – from Tuscany,” says Monteforte, whose deep connection to his native countryside makes for profoundly personal works that capture Tuscany’ sublime beauty.  Italian art critic Gianmarco Puntelli has written about Monteforte’s work in a beautiful Italian-English catalogue documenting the exhibition.

Monteforte, a celebrated artist in his native Italy, studied closely with Italian artist Umberto Buscioni at the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, where he was profoundly influenced by artists such as Pontormo, Ennio Morlotti, Giorgio Morandi and Carlo Carrà.  Three of Monteforte’s works were purchased by the President of the Italian Senate for the Palazzo Madama Art Gallery and his painting, L’albero della vita (The Tree of Life) was presented to the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, Rome.

Monteforte lives in Forte dei Marmi, a quaint coastal village in the province of Lucca on the Tuscan Riviera.  He cherishes his home base for its tranquility and calm, simultaneously accessible to the cultural landmarks of bigger Italian cities such as Florence and Milan. He maintains two studios.  A smaller space is located inside his gallery, Galleria d’Arte Arena, in the center of Forte dei Marmi, where he exhibits his work along with other artists such as Mark Kostabi, Antonio Possenti, and Walter Lazzaro.   To accommodate large-scale works and cumulative projects, he has a spacious studio in Camaiore, a small town in the province of Lucca.  “It’s ancient place that’s rich in history with a beautiful, eighth century Benedictine Abby.  Life seems to go at an even slower pace than in Forte dei Marmi and I’m able to express myself with total freedom.”

The Italian connection–good friends Gabriele Lavia (Left), Nicola Luisotti, and Domenico Monteforte will all be at the Italian Cultural Institute this Sunday to celebrate the opening of Monteforte’s painting exhibition, “Toscana.” photo: courtesy Domenico Monteforte

Sunday’s Opening Reception: Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian theater and film director Gabriele Lavia, both longstanding friends of the artist, will be making an appearance on Sunday night to introduce Monteforte’s exhibition.  Lavia is in San Francisco directing SF Opera’s highly-anticipated Attila, which opens Tuesday, June 12, 2012.  Monteforte’s friendship with San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti is the impetus behind this exhibition in San Francisco.  “Luisotti opened up a marvelous world to me of opera – Puccini, Verdi, Bizet – and now I listen to this great music when I work on large canvases.”

Maestro Luisotti relates, “When I study a score, I try to discern the colors within the music.  When Domenico paints, he strives to interpret the music of life into colors on a canvas. We always say that our work is not so different after all. Domenico is a true magician of color – his Tuscany is like a dream.”  Guests at Sunday’s opening reception will receive a sample of olive oil featuring a label that Monteforte has designed and will be invited to try “pappa al pomodoro”, a hearty tomato-bread soup which Monteforte will have prepared himself for the event.

Details:  Toscana’s opening reception is Sunday, June 10, 2012, 6:30-8 p.m., at the Italian Cultural Institute, 814 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94133.  Phone 415.788.7142

Admission is free, but space is limited. RSVP required.  To RSVP, click here you will be directed to a registration webpage which will send you a confirmation email.

The Toscana exhibition runs June 10-August 10, 2012, at the Italian Cultural Institute.   For further information on Domenico Monteforte, visit the artist’s website at

June 8, 2012 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

film review: SFFS New Italian Cinema In “18 Years Later” (18 anni dopo), two estranged brothers embark on an Italian road trip in a classic Morgan to lay dad’s ashes to rest

A scene from Edoardo Leo's "18 YEARS LATER," screening Thursday 11/18 and Sunday 11/21 at New Italian Cinema at Landmark's Embarcadero Center Cinema. Photo: SFFS.

This year’s New Italian Cinema series, November 14-21, 2010, at Landmark’s Embarcadero Cinemas, by the San Francisco Film Society  and Istituto Italiano di Cultura di San Francisco showcases new films by seven emerging young Italian filmmakers, most of whom you’ve probably never heard of but all of whom will be making personal appearances at their screenings to discuss their work.  The annual mini-festival is sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society  and Istituto Italiano di Cultura di San Francisco highlights new trends in Italian cinema.  Established director Turkish-born Ferzan Ozpetek was honored at the series’ opening night last Sunday with a screening of his new film “Loose Cannons” and a retrospective of three of his classics which screened on Sunday and Monday.  Paolo Verzi closes the festival this Sunday, November 21, with “The First Beautiful Thing,” Italy’s official submission for the foreign-language Oscar. 

Being a European vintage car buff and an Italian film aficionado, Edoardo Leo’s “18 Years Later” (18 anni dopo) stood out in the program as a potential gem—showcasing a gorgeous vintage Morgan 4+ or 4-4 roadster in classic British racing green and a road trip through the Italian countryside–a journey that stands to reunite two estranged brothers.  The film screens this Thursday and Sunday.  If you are a car buff, this finicky Morgan will keep you entertained.  And even if  you can’t tell a Morgan from a Fiat Dino, the film  is definitely worth seeing for the touching tale it weaves about a broken family.   Its members have suppressed the truth and their feelings for so long that they each have became stuck in toxic patterns that have drained them and those around them of life.   When a tragedy occurs, the added grief is nearly insurmountable.

Italian brothers Mirko (director Edoardo Leo) and Genziano (co-writer Marco Bonini) haven’t spoken since their mother died 18 years ago in a car accident.  Genziano moved to London after the accident and buried himself in work–becoming a successful merchant banker.  Sweet stammering Mirko stayed at home in Rome helping out in the family’s auto repair garage until he lost sight of himself, got swallowed up in debt and faces losing his wife who sees him as a shadow of the man he once was.   His speech impediment seems directly related to his repressed emotions.

When their father dies, Genziano returns to Rome for a 24 hour visit and spends most of his time on his iphone orchestrating a complex futures sale that is to go through the moment he returns to London.  He is nervous, distracted, unable and unwilling to connect emotionally with the family he left behind years ago.  

When Mirko discovers that their father’s last wish was to have his ashes put to rest beside those of their mother in Calabria some 300 miles away, and that the two brothers are to accomplish this delivery in the Morgan roadster in which their mother mysteriously died, he is beside himself.   He also learns that their father secretly rebuilt the wrecked Morgan and stored it in the garage awaiting his death when it instead could have been sold to get the family out of hock.   

Barely speaking, the two brothers reluctantly embark on their journey with their dad’s ashes in the back seat.  Predictably, they experience a number of setbacks—including encountering a pretty hitchhiker who manages to break their silence, a breakdown, and losing the Morgan and their dad’s ashes. 

There is comic relief at the film’s midpoint when the two brothers are forced to hitchhike and encounter all sorts of characters and situations that bring them together.

The car carries as much symbolic weight in the film as the actors.  It knows the truth about the past but cannot speak it and suffers a breakdown that sets the stage for the truth to surface.   Why an Italian would buy a Morgan, over a classic Italian car  in the first place is a puzzler, but it seems the father and mother lived in London at one point and were wealthy enough to buy the luxury British roadster and returned to Rome to raise their family and brought the car with them. 

In terms of Morgan design features that figure in the film’s plot—the convertible requires a good half hour of wrangling to get its top erected, which involves manually attaching a canvas roof cover to a metal frame and then positioning that frame over the car—an awful task in the rain. It’s even more terrible for two brothers who aren’t speaking and who are transporting dad’s remains in a not so leak-proof ash tray in the back seat.  That the electrical system implodes on this first long run in years is almost a given. Morgans are notoriously finicky.   This sets the stage for stuttering Mirko to shine as he uses his mechanical skills to finesse some bastard repairs while the impatient financial whiz Genziano appears useless.    

Sabrina Impacciatore shines as Mirella and Gabriele Ferzetti as her father-in-law in Edoardo Leo’s “18 Years Later,” playing at New Italian Cinema, November 14-21, 2010 at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center. Photo: SFFS.

A subplots unfolds in Rome involving their grandfather, played wonderfully by Gabriele Ferzetti, who reveals what he knows about his daughter’s death to Mirella (Sabrina Impacciatore), Mirko’s loyal but very frustrated wife.   She is biding the time that Mirko is away by sorting through old photos, looking for clues as to how her husband–silent about the past–arrived at his sorry state.

The ending is magical, proving there no one who knows you like a brother who is near your age and who you have grown up with.  This is a slow-paced film that rests on the solid acting of Leo and Bonini who initially seem as different as night and day but sink into their roles credibly as the film progresses. 

108 minutes, in Italian with English subtitles

Director: Edoardo Leo

Producers: Guido De Angelis, Nicola De Angelis, Marco De Angelis for DAP Italy

Writers: Edoardo Leo, Marco Bonini, Lucilla Schiaffino,

Cast: Edoardo Leo, Marco Bonini, Sabrina Impacciatore, Eugenia Costantini, Gabriele Ferzetti, Tommaso Olivieri, Vinicio Marchioni,

Part of New Italian Cinema, November 14-21, 2010, sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society and the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco.  Guest appearance of Director Edoardo Leo. 

Screens: Thursday, November 18, 6:00 pm & Sunday, November 21, 3:00 pm,  Landmark’s Embarcadero Cinema.  Tickets: $12.50,

November 17, 2010 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment