Italian Film Director Pantheon:
Fellini Antonioni Rossellini
Visconti De Sica Pasolini

The history of Italian cinema is one of the richest and most influential in the world of film. The country has given birth to great directors like De Sica, Fellini, Antonioni, Rossellini, and Visconti. The neo-realist period from 1945-50 revolutionized film making forever and the 60’s and 70’s saw the production of masterpiece after masterpiece. Italians Films have won countless international awards, been recognized repeatedly at Cannes and the Academy Awards and make up a bulk of any young film makers course of studies.

In the last 20 years however, things have stagnated. It seemed to many that the Italian film scene had dried up and had only its former glory to reminisce. Until, the Cannes Film Festival this year that is, when Nanni Moretti, was awarded the Palme D’Or for his film, The Son’s Room. The last Italian director to take this honor was Fellini in 1974 for his film Amarcord. Now, it seems to many, that the fate and honor of the Italian film scene lies on the shoulders of this one man. But who is he?

Nanni Moretti was born August, 19th, 1953 and he currently lives in Rome. In his youth he was an avid water polo player and in 1970 he played for the junior National team. In his youth he was politically active and a leftie. Shortly after finishing high school he bought a super8 camera, and made several short films with his friends. His first professional movie was Ecce Bombo (1978).

He currently runs his own production company, Sacher Films, and writes, produces and stars in all of his films. He has been called a European Woody Allen. His sense of humor is similar, like Allen he is both bewildered and bemused as he tries to gain an understanding of life, love and relationships. And both men ask questions through their films that prove more profound than their comedic appearance would initially lead one to believe.

Moretti’s films are marked by a number of immediately identifiable qualities:

  1. They are contemporary: every one is set in the present tense and concerns itself with modern life.
  2. Politics informs most of them: they deal in a general sense with the body politic of Italy and in a specific sense with issues of the day.
  3. Metaphysical questions are a constant presence: questions about the nature of the world, the form that love takes, how one lives “the good life.”
  4. They are comedies: some of Moretti’s set pieces are masterful in conception and execution, superb moments of comic genius utilized to make deeper points about politics, life relationships.
  5. They announce their subjectivity: Moretti is the central character in all of his films

Source of the above list: Piers Handling, Cinemateque Ontario, Fall Program

I had the opportunity to watch one of Moretti’s earlier films, Palombella rossa, during an Italian film course. There were 20 students from a spectrum of academic backgrounds who, during the course of the year, had agreed unanimously on nothing, and could hardly even agree to disagree. Every film was debated and analyzed to unimaginable degrees. The day following the viewing of the this film, however, a shocking thing occurred. Each and every individual, from the outspoken goth girl in the front row to the bio-chemistry major in the back corner. We all said it, “I didn’t get it. I really had no idea what was going on. Did you get it? I didn’t get it.” The film was highly political in its commentary and had little bearing to viewers outside of Italy. It is interesting to note that there are several web sites on this up and coming director, but most are in Italian; Moretti has not yet fully internationalized. From what I have read, I believe that Moretti will slowly emerge as an international caliber director. He will remain, however and I hope, like in his earlier films, a unique individual, with a very unique perspective and style.