❉ Matt Barber on two films from the Italian filmmaker, released this month on Blu-ray.
“Sweet without slipping into sentimentality and with a deceptively sophisticated visual style, Aprile glides between cinéma vérité and Fellini-like abstract tableau without feeling contrived or false.”
To describe Nanni Moretti as the Italian Woody Allen, as many critics have done, is reductive but instructive. Like Allen, Moretti makes small and charming movies that usually feature himself, or a cinematic version of himself, as a main character. Unlike Allen, Moretti’s filmography is sparse (only 12 movies in 44 years) and the Italian director doesn’t come with the problematic baggage that Allen has picked up. A more interesting comparison with Moretti may be with fellow Roman Federico Fellini.
Aprile, Moretti’s sequel to his exceptional Caro diaro, features the director struggling with a new movie, distracted by the rise of Silvio Berlusconi as a populist political force, and, ultimately, learning to bond with his new-born son. Aprile is Moretti’s ninth movie and shares uncannily similar themes to Fellini’s ninth film 8 ½: the frustration of the creative process, the madness that comes from having a single film hanging on your shoulders and the distractions that the world can bring. Like Fellini, Moretti embraces writer’s block by transforming it into a charming, personal film.
Sweet without slipping into sentimentality and with a deceptively sophisticated visual style, Aprile glides between cinéma vérité and Fellini-like abstract tableau without feeling contrived or false. Watched directly following Caro diaro, a similarly comic film that follows Moretti through his meditations on Rome, his preparations for another movie, and a shocking, but very Woody Allen-ish medical diagnosis (see Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters for comparison), you get the sense of a director and individual maturing on screen.
This maturation reaches its apogee in Moretti’s tenth movie The Son’s Room. Moretti plays Giovanni, a therapist whose son, Andrea, tragically dies in a diving accident leaving Giovanni and his wife Paola grieving. When they receive a love letter intended for Andrea, the couple invite the girl to their home where they connect with her in an attempt to blunt their loss.
Whilst The Son’s Room retreats from the directly personal themes of Caro diaro and Aprile, and lacks their wild comedy, there is something natural about the progression from the ninth to the tenth Moretti film. Both films are about the bond between father and son, the former pre- and post-natal, the latter pre- and post-mortem. The Son’s Room is like a dark reflection of Moretti’s earlier films, profoundly exploring the theme of loss and grief with touches of Moretti’s humane wit.
As a director, Moretti profoundly but economically delivers personal films that are threaded with comedy, pathos, liberal politics and, at times, tragedy. Despite the limited number of films in his canon, the impact of his creative voice is significant and he ranks alongside the greatest of modern filmmakers. Both Aprile and The Son’s Room, released this month on Blu-ray, are visually sharp and sound great – though the extras are limited.
❉ ‘Aprile’ (1998) and ‘The Son’s Room’ (La Stanza del Figlio, 2001) are released as part of the Vintage World Cinema Collection on DVD, Blu-Ray & digital from STUDIOCANAL: https://amzn.to/3fFFDEL
❉ APRILE (1998) Cert: 12. Total Running Time: 78 mins approx. DVD/Blu-Ray Extras include Le cercle du cinéma (Festival de Cannes 1998).
❉ THE SONS ROOM (La Stanza del Figlio, 2001) Cert: 15/ Total Running Time: 99 mins approx. DVD/Blu-Ray Extras include an Interview with Nanni Moretti and Laura Morante (Cannes Film Festival 2001).