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Signorinaeffe: Love in the time of strikes


Numerous genre films are hitting Italian screens this week, beginning with American Gangster by Ridley Scott (Universal, 470 screens); the animation/live action mix Alvin and the Chipmunks by Tim Hill (Fox, 260 screens); and Asif Kapadia’s The Return (Eagle, 80 screens).

The Jane Austen Book Club (Sony, 10 screens) offers more of an arthouse feel, as do the three Italian titles. Gli Arcangeli by Simone Scafidi is being distributed on two screens by (dis)ORDET and Marco Simon Puccioni’s Shelter [+see also:
film review
film profile
on 10 by Movimento Film, alongside Wilma Labate’s Signorinaeffe [+see also:
film profile
(“Missus F”), which premiered at the Turin Film Festival last November.

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Released on a 70-print run by 01 Distribution, Signorinaeffe – judging by the whistles and applause at the end of its press screening – is destined to cause a stir. The film’s central love story is interwoven with the massive strike that blocked Fiat for 35 days in Turin in 1980.

Emma (Valeria Solarino) is the youngest daughter of a family that “emigrated” from southern Italy, who looks get ahead in life with a degree in math and her engagement to manager Fabrizio Gifuni. Sergio (Filippo Timi) is a sombre factory worker from Umbria who, according to the actor, “is a fragile man who feels inadequate because he has little mastery of language. He prefers to remain silent and speak with his body. This is why the few words he does say seem all the more important”.

The film’s narrative outline, said co-screenwriter Domenico Starnone (who wrote the script with Labate and Carla Vangelista) “is of a melodrama set against a social backdrop, modelled after Rocco and his Brothers by Luchino Visconti. Nineteen-eighty was a hard year, it marked the end of class consciousness. We depicted this by condensing it into Emma’s problems and transformations”.

Another reason, says Labate, why Signorinaeffe “is a feminine, even sensual, film, with a very modern main character, who strives to rise above her social class but stumbles in the face of passion. Emma is a suspended character. She doesn’t make obvious choices, she lives her emotions fully but she never fully embraces Sergio’s ideology”.

By no means new to social issues in her work, the director for years had been dreaming of making a film on the working class. “The Italy of then is a milestone to understanding the Italy of today,” she asserts. And to those who reproach her for not having broached the subject of terrorism (the theme of her second feature, My Generation), she responds that “the weight of that issue would have rendered the workers’ struggle secondary, confusing the two events”.

Produced by Donatella Botti for Bianca Film (with Rai Cinema and a contribution from the Ministry of Culture and the Turin Piedmont Film Commission) Signorinaeffe is further proof of the producer’s desire to make films “that stimulate debate. If a film divides people, it means it has a healthy energy to it”.

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(Translated from Italian)

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