in the Big City (9/10)
by Tony Medley
Poor Caterina Iacovoni
(13-year-old Alice Teghil, making her film debut with no acting
experience). Her father, Giancarlo (Sergio Castellitto) is an angry,
upwardly mobile accounting teacher in an isolated area of Italy. Her
mother, Agata (Margherita Buy) is a sweet and pretty but provincial woman
who is psychologically battered by Giancarlo.
Giancarlo finally gets a new
teaching position in Rome, so he uproots his family and they flee to Rome
where Giancarlo enrolls Caterina in a ritzy school and urges her to
befriend the daughters of the privileged.
Caterina, who is a shy, sweet,
unsophisticated girl, tries to go along but she is thrust into the
maelstrom between the schoolís two movers-and-shakers: Margherita,
daughter of a famed leftist writer and intellectual, who leads the
schoolís leftists, and Daniela, child of a rising member of the current
conservative national government, who is, naturally, conservative. While
she is courted by each group, her father constantly makes a fool of
himself trying to get ahead by contacting his daughterís friendsí
Directed by Paolo Virzi, who
also co-wrote the script with Francesco Bruni, this is a brilliant
examination of a young girlís turbulent year of discovery and
self-awareness, as she watches the deterioration of her father and the
disintegration of her parentsí marriage. Giancarlo is selfishly pathetic.
While he treats Agata with condescension, the upper classes to which he so
fervently aspires treat him with equal condescension, further angering
Virzi views Caterina as a
metaphor for present day Italy, ďspellbound by a haughty Left depressed by
its feelings of defeat, and, at the same time, charmed and confused by a
fun-loving, vulgar and unhappy New Right.Ē Unfortunately, Virzi lets his
leftist political views influence the making of the story. Instead of
viewing both extremes as equally reprehensible, he paints the right with
far more vivid colors than he does Margherita, the representative of the
left, who is presented far more sympathetically.
The film is also greatly
damaged by the subtitles, which are among the worst Iíve seen. When the
subtitles are white and the background is white, itís impossible to read
them. This seems so obvious, but films continue to be released with
unreadable subtitles. How the film industry can create mind-boggling
special effects, but canít find the technology to prevent white on white
and black on black subtitles continues to be a conundrum.
Teghil is nothing short of
brilliant. Itís almost impossible to believe that she had never acted
before and that she was only 13 years old when she made this movie in
2003. Castellitto is equally brilliant in portraying a psychologically
deviant father and husband. That I enjoyed this film about a teenaged girl
so much was a complete surprise to me. (In Italian with subtitles).
June 11, 2005