- VENICE 2023: The actress Micaela Ramazzotti shows she cares about the issues she brings to the table in the family drama with which she makes her directorial debut
Who knows whether Micaela Ramazzotti had in mind the opening lines of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina - “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Everything was upside down in the Oblònskije house” when she decided to title her debut film as director Felicità [+see also:
film profile], in the Orizzonti Extra competition at the 80th Venice Film Festival. More than upside down, the family at the centre of this film is ordinarily annihilating. In its own way.
In her debut, Ramazzotti – one of the most beloved actresses in Italian cinema of the last two decades, winner of the 2010 David di Donatello for The First Beautiful Thing [+see also:
film profile] – plays the role of Desirè, a generous and sensitive woman who works permanently as a make-up artist on film sets around Rome. The screenwriters – the director herself with Isabella Cecchi and Alessandra Guidi – have applied the latin locution “nomen omen” to the character: she is desired (but not respected) by all and her recent past is dotted with brief and furtive sexual encounters in the trailers of film productions, a way to make herself accepted that betrays a deep malaise and which has earned her a bad reputation (“they call her the bicycle, everyone has been for a ride,” we hear a crew member say with little elegance); desidered also by her boyfriend, a university professor much older than her (Sergio Rubini) who is ashamed of her ignorance and reproaches her of still being subservient to her parents.
The father (Max Tortora) is a pathetic former fourth rate TV showman, retired but still seeking employment, histrionic, manipulative, hypocritical, more retrograde than reactionary, so explicitly racist that it seems exaggerated, and convinced of being a “good person” – all attributes that we find also in a large part of the not only Italian but European population, today well pampered by conservative governments. To create a job for the youngest son Claudio (the great Matteo Olivetti), the father buys a luxury car to be hired with a chauffeur, but makes Desirè sign the guarantee, soon putting her in the hands of loan sharks. He takes her last pennies by pretending to need heart surgery.
But if Desirè is an anxious woman full of phobias, the one really damaged by the family is young Claudio. When he attempts suicide using the benzodiazepines prescribed to his mother (Anna Galiena), Claudio is saved by his sister and taken to hospital where he is diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder, often denied by both parents. So much so that, when the boy returns home, his mother takes away the treatment assigned to him by the doctors and administers her own, rendering him an inert zombie. When her boyfriend reveals a terrible truth, Desirè returns to help her brother. The director is skillful in widening her gaze and shifting the viewer's attention to the figure of the brother as well, touching on a social issue such as the difficulty of finding a safe environment in which a young person can live away from the family trap. The scene of the brawl between the two brothers that turns into an embrace is awkward in terms of staging but expresses all the tenderness of brotherly love. Ramazzotti shows that she cares about the themes she brings to the table in her debut, and this directness makes certain smears disappear. The hand of a veteran like director of photography Luca Bigazzi and the accurate and dynamic editing Jacopo Quadri give accomplished form to this bitter drama that will touch the hearts of a wider audience than those who usually attend festivals.
(Translated from Italian)
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