An Evening of Cinema
Wednesday, September 28, 2005Presenting...
Niobrara County Library
"Agata and the Storm"
a film by Silvio Soldini
A swirl of pop-art color, madcap magic, and the bittersweet call of life and love. Director Silvio Soldini pays careful attention to his cast of characters in this ensemble comedy, creating suspense, laughter and tenderness. When Agata (Licia Maglietta), the popular bookshop propietor and dispenser of sunny wisdom is suddenly wooed by a man almost half her age, her electricity hits high-voltage. Yet it is Agata's joy and magnetism in the face of life in all its irony that eventually offers the eye of the storm.
Italian with English subtitles, 118 minutes.
Review - Review - Review - Review
By DEBORAH YOUNG
Date in print: Mon., Mar. 8, 2004, Weekly
The bipolar Silvio Soldini follows his angst-ridden, quasi-melodramatic "Burning in the Wind" with a live-wire comedy painted in eye-popping colors. Story about a dazzling bookstore proprietor who blows out light bulbs with her emotional electricity, "Agata and the Storm" is much in the vein of Soldini's "Bread And Tulips" (2000), a sleeper that became one of the year's top-grossing films. After a strong opening weekend Feb. 27, pic looks set to turn into a high-voltage hit in Italy; a marketing strategy capitalizing on its witty modernity could help it strike lightning in neighboring markets, too.
Pic adds good doses of Almodovar eccentricity and Jeunet whimsy to its portrait of a thoroughly emancipated woman, her brother and their friends. Holding together the many centrifugal plots which continually threaten to overbalance the tale is Agata (Licia Maglietta, the runaway housewife in "Bread and Tulips" and a top stage performer).
Agata runs an airy store in downtown Genoa with the assistance of Maria Libera (comedienne Gisela Volodi), dispensing books to customers like they were medicine for the soul. She's such a ray of sunshine, it's no surprise when Nicola (Claudio Santamaria), 13 years her junior and married, declares he's madly in love with her.
Agata's brother, Gustavo (Emilio Solfrizzi), a much more sober type, is a successful architect stifled in his marriage to a silly but famous TV marriage counselor.
In a third story strand that at first seems unconnected, Romeo (Giuseppe Battiston), a natty traveling clothes salesman, runs around the provinces betraying his beloved wife, Daria (Monica Nappo), with a series of one-nighters. Back home he finds his elderly mother on her deathbed, where she reveals a great secret. Before he was born, she had another child out of wedlock, whom she gave up: Gustavo.
Thus the two half-brothers meet. Gustavo is so shocked he opts out of his job, his family and even Agata to sell suits with Romeo. He remains in this catatonic state until Agata, who is suffering from a broken heart and has such a charge of feeling inside her she blows out street lamps and car batteries, catches up with them.
Despite its surface frivolity and homespun surreality, underneath the film has a Buddha-like calm in pointing to love and freedom as life's true values. Sadly, the script starts to run out of steam in a string of multiple endings, each with a twist, which ought to have been telescoped into one wild, blowout grand finale.
Heading the cast, Maglietta rewrites the cinematic rules of sex, age and beauty with her magnetism. Next to her everyone else fades into a character actor, including the deadpan Solfrizzi, love-crazed Santamaria (who revenges himself in a final fit of rage, however) and incurable womanizer Battiston. Volodi and Nappo are off-beat but attention-getting in supporting roles.
Great efforts have been taken to make film a feast for the senses. Every scene, carefully lit by d.p. Arnaldo Catinari, is maliciously underlined by the garish colors and pattern madness of the sets and costumes, while the score titillates with its fresh selection of musical choices. Pic is further spiced with several movie-within-a-movie vignettes that come out of nowhere.
Camera (color), Arnaldo Catinari; editor, Carlotta Cristiani; music, Giovanni Venosta; production designer, Paola Bizzarri; costume designer, Silvia Nebiolo. Reviewed at Mignon Cinema, Rome, Feb. 29, 2004. Running time: 118 MIN.
Nominated for 8 David di Donatello Awards (Italian Oscars) Seville Film Festival Sao Paulo Int'l Film Festival
Cannes Film Market Opening Night film at the 2004 Lavazza Italian FF 2004 (Australia)
Licia Maglietta Agata
Giuseppe Battiston Romeo
Emilio Solfrizzi Gustavo
Marina Massironi Ines Silvestri
Claudio Santamaria Nico
Giselda Volodi Maria Libera
Ann Eleonora Jørgensen Pernille Margarethe Kierkegaard
Remo Remotti Generoso Rambone
Monica Nappo Daria
Director Silvio Soldini
Story and Screenplay Doriana Leondeff
Music Giovanni Venosta
Director of Photography Aranaldo Catinari
Art Director Paola Bizzarri
Costumes Silvia Nebiolo
Editing Carlotta Cristiani
Sound Francois Musy
Production Coordinator Riccardo Pintus
Make-up Esme' Sciaroni
Notes from the director, Silvio Soldini:
"After having shot my last two films, both based on a classic narrative structure, following the main character and his adventures, I felt the need to work on a more choral story, like I partly did with my first full-length film, L'aria serena dell'ovest, but in a more ironic and light way. Agata e la tempesta is a comedy. Agata's past life is emotionally troubled, marked by choices, sudden breaks and continuous beginnings. She's a woman who's already over 40, whose life is in her hands - a job she likes, a twenty year old daughter who's leaving her - portrayed in a particularly stormy moment of her life. Besides, Agata brings to the film an almost surreal element- the lamps she breaks with her emotions - that she does not understand, that frightens her, that she is not able to handle until the end. Without telling tales, but being well grounded to reality the way we know it, the idea of the film is to show characters' weakness, contradictions, sweetness, imperfections, dark sides, their being funny and deep at the same time, their humanity. The town where the story takes place is Genoa, a town by the sea, built on a steep rock, full of views where our eye, and Agata's as well, can be free towards the blue. On the other hand, representing almost another world, the plain where Romeo lives, the Po valley where the eye can sweep over without finding obstacles, with its straight roads, the Po river, an atmosphere out of time and space, where traditional culture still exists, together with the new one. If Genoa seems to be the town we all know (even if its representation is not realistic), the plain is depicted as a suspended place, where other things can happen, where it is possible to enter another dimension - like Gustavo does - where it is possible to forget everything and try to find new meanings. The work on colors, settings, costumes and photography goes towards a mismatched reality, creating a world close to the one we live in but more released, ruled by the same laws but more generous, more extreme, lighter though sometimes not less painful. A world to be mirrored in, where at the end one wants to move in."
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