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A radical-thinking Leopardi

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- VENICE 2014: Mario Martone directs a film about the life of Giacomo Leopardi, unhappy genius but lover of life, ironic and rebellious

Review

If someone should consider Giacomo Leopardi as a distant and old-fashioned romantic poet, only fit for the classroom, well in the last months of last year the translation of his diary (Zibaldone) has been a literary success in England and the United States, where it was published respectively by Penguin Books and by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The Sunday TimesNew StatesmanNew York Review of Books have defined the poet´s  most philosophical work as a key reference for modern thought, while the Financial Times describes Leopardi as "one of the most radical thinkers of the nineteenth century" comparing him to Coleridge, Emerson, Kirkegaard and Nietzsche.

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Fresh from his 19th century Italian unification film We Believed [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Mario Martone
interview: Mario Martone
film profile
]
and the successful theatre production of his Operette MoraliMario Martone has decided to take on the life of an immense genius like Leopardi. Il giovane favoloso [+see also:
trailer
film focus
interview: Mario Martone
film profile
]
(Leopardi), a title borrowed from Anna Maria Ortese, is among the hopeful contestants vying for the Golden Lion in competition at the Venice Film Festival.

Leopardi´s writings and his remarkable letters provided the source material for the script, written by the director with Ippolita di Majo. The film portrays an unhappy and distressed man certainly, but at the same time he comes across as courageous, rebellious, ironic and impervious to hypocrisy. "I detest this cowardly prudence that makes our blood run cold!", he shouts at his unyielding father, Count Monaldo (Massimo Popolizio) who doesn´t wish to let him leave, to explore an Italy in turmoil. When he succeeds in departing, after years of study in the ill-borne Recanati together with siblings Paolina (Isabella Ragonese) and Carlo (Edoardo Natoli), the young prodigy Giacomo is by then already famous for his magnificent poetry among the most exclusive literary circles. The intellectual of revolutionary ideals Pietro Giordani formerly pays him a visit. In the middle of the Restoration period in Italy however, relations between Leopardi and these intellectuals will become tenser and tenser. 

First he travels to Florence, where he leads a wild life with his close friend from Naples Antonio Ranieri (Michele Riondino), and where he falls in love with noblewoman Fanny Targioni-Tozzetti (Anna Mouglalis) who in turn flirts with Ranieri. Giacomo´s health becomes worse, he´s afflicted by semi-blindness and bone deformation. Antonio convinces him to leave for Naples, after a break in Rome. In the Neapolitan city Giacomo observes and enjoys life, from alleys in which kids play ball to sexual encounters in brothels and trips to Pompei with young working-class chaperones, like a Pasolini ante-litteram.

Once cholera takes hold, Leopardi spends his last days in a villa on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, where he writes "La ginestra" (The Broom), his spiritual testament. Elio Germano, Best Actor at Cannes in 2010 for Our Life [+see also:
film review
trailer
making of
film profile
]
, plays a "wonderful" man, in a movie that seeks to delve into the marvellous writings of a genius. The film has been produced by Palomar with RAI Cinema.

(Translated from Italian)

photogallery

international title: Leopardi
original title: Il giovane favoloso
country: Italy
year: 2014
directed by: Mario Martone
cast: Elio Germano, Isabella Ragonese, Michele Riondino, Edo Natoli, Massimo Popolizio, Anna Mouglalis, Valerio Binasco, Paolo Graziosi, Sandro Lombardi, Iaia Forte

main awards/selection

Venice Film Festival 2014 In competition
Bari International Film Festival 2015 
cinando

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