Soap Opera, a sparkling melodrama
by Camillo de Marco
- With the festival’s opening film Alessandro Genovesi experiments with an uncommon way of writing a comedy, staging and directing it, by creating a sort of non-Italian hybrid
With Soap Opera [+see also:
film profile], the opening film of the Rome Film Festival, Alessandro Genovesi experiments with an uncommon way of writing a comedy, staging and directing it, by creating a sort of non-Italian hybrid in which melodrama, surreal comedy and romance come together in an extremely elegant visual presentation. Together with his third work since the brilliantLa peggior settimana della mia vita [+see also:
film profile] (The worst week of my life), adaptation of an English sitcom from the BBC (total takings € 9,663,000) and Il peggior Natale della mia vita [+see also:
film profile](The worst Christmas ever (€ 7,820,000), the Milanese director and screenwriter reconvenes for Soap Opera the protagonists of his previous movies; his favourite actor Fabio De Luigi (the Italian Hugh Grant) and Cristiana Capotondi. He places them in a bizarre apartment block that he displays in jigsaw pieces like on the cover of "Life: a User’s Manual" by Georges Perec, in a timeless and undefined city, just like his colleague Daniele Ciprì has done for La buca [+see also:
Francesco (De Luigi) is a forty-year-old bachelor who’s still in love with his ex Anna (Capotondi). Anna secretly loves him too but won’t forgive him for cheating on her. Francesco meets Anna on the tram and she tells him that she’s pregnant, but doesn’t let him know that he’s the father. A few hours earlier Francesco’s neighbour committed suicide, and in the apartment block also occupied by two twin brothers (comic duo Ale and Franz) and the vivacious TV soap actress Alice (Chiara Francini), the deceased’s fiancée, provocative Francesca (top model Elisa Sednaoui) appears. Francesco puts her up, and this causes Anna to become jealous; she watches her ex from the footpath opposite covered in snow complete with Billie Holiday playing in the background. The movie also stars Ricky Memphis asFrancesco’s best friend, uncertain about his sexual orientation on the eve of the birth of a son, and Diego Abatantuono as the eccentric Carabiniere sergeant who’s investigating the man’s death.
In 2007 Alessandro Genovesi had staged a theatre production of a comedy he had written, Happy Family, praised by critics and loved by the audience, and in 2010 Gabriele Salvatores based a film on it that went against Italian cinema norms; instead it was closer to the aesthetics of Wes Anderson. Soap Opera was born out of this theatrical production. Created initially for theatre, the script was improved and it became a very personal film. Everything contributes to creating the bewildering iconographic universe imagined by the director, from Federico Masiero’s elegant photography to Andrea Farri’srefined musical scores played by theCzech National Symphony Orchestra, to the careful cinematography of Tonino Zera, who rebuilt the interior in Cinecittà’s teatro 8 and used the streets of Gangs of New York by Martin Scorsese for the exterior. "The way you tell a story is influenced by the aesthetics" confirmed the director when speaking about this movie. Even the title suggests that if cinema is fiction then life itself is an illusion promoted by any old detergent. The attempt to bypass the Italian-style comedy and to produce instead an "international" one is laudable, but the result is still a long way off and the long-lasting surface shine is overdone.
(Translated from Italian)