Much like Cannes -- which sometimes feels obliged to have French cinema on board its competition even though it may be somewhat light weight -- Venice feels a sense of compulsion here. There was one Italian movie at the ongoing Venice Film Festival which this writer saw. Called Piuma or Feather, it was well acted and well mounted, but too verbose and seemed like a television piece suited for a bored rainy day in the living room.
Narrating a hilarious tale about two high school children in Rome, Feather, helmed by Roan Johnson, traces how they and their families deal with an unwanted pregnancy. Though it is extremely witty and would get Italian audiences in splits, the humour has more to do with the turn of phrases -- which would seem a bit flat in English subtitles.
The core theme, having a child now appears so difficult in the modern world -- while it ought to be the most natural thing. As Johnson said in his press brochure: “I started to script this story together with my co-writers Ottavio, Davide and Carlotta because we share a great fear with the major part of our generation: Having a child. What should be the most natural thing in the world has paradoxically become an impossible complication. In these days and in this country, becoming a parent doesn’t seem so much like the beginning of a new life, but rather the end of an old life. The end to cocktail hours, of weekends spending underneath the bed covers, of trips without destination and the beginning of a series of financial difficulties and moral responsibilities”.
(It is not very different in India today with young people willing to share a roof and bed but not the responsibilities of bringing up a baby. So, one would not be surprised if some producer gets hold of Feather and recreates it to suite the Indian milieu.)
Feather has Ferro (played by Luigi Fedele) and Cate (Blu Yoshimi Di Martino) set to appear for their high school finals. They are looking forward to a trip to Morocco after their exams with friends. But Cate gets pregnant -- which she had not bargained for. Ferro is equally disturbed, and so too the families of the couple, who get into the whole thing creating a lot more mess which, though has been narrated with charming wit.
However, since the movie is so full of conversations, it becomes quite a strain to keep pace with Feather as it floats along, nay spins along.
The other Italian work this writer watched at Venice was called Tommaso, helmed by Kim Rossi Stuart. He made an outstanding work, Along the Ridge, 10 years ago -- which may be described as the sister film of Tommaso. The child from Along the Ridge is a now a handsome young man, Tommaso (played by the director himself), and is a well known actor in the movie. His relationship with Chiara (Jasmine Trinca) is in a crisis -- and the narrative is autobiographical. Stuart told the media at Venice that he had spent years searching for satisfying relationships “but in the end I gave up, although thinking about this film for 10 years paradoxically gave me that sense of awareness that ended up making them better”.
So Tommaso forces Chiara to dump him and gets himself the freedom to chase women. But he is so neurotic that he spoils every relationship. Basically, he sees defects in every woman, and tends to be a guy who loves them all, but never any one of them for long. In the end, he comes across Sonia (Camilla Diana) and the roles get reversed.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Venice Film Festival.)