Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Libero como uno uccellino

Sunday night at the movies: a film by the very un-Italian-named actor Kim Rossi Stuart (his name is explained by his having an English father). Libero is the story of a ten-year-old boy, who is torn by the marital turmoil of his parents, an intemperate steadicam-operator played by Stuart, and his mother, a philandering gold-digger who loves her children more than the man who sired them, yet who commits herself disastrously to a rekindling of the marriage having returned to the homestead.

Libero is a modest, likeable film that manages to be both tasteful and touching and it is remarkable mainly for the performance of its charming young star Alessandro Morace as Tomasso, the reluctant swimming champion, who is much more interested in taking up football - 'an idiot's game' as his father calls it. The title (which in the original is Anche libero va bene - 'I think Libero would be good') is taken from Italian football's most famous positional creation, and which the father suggests to his son when he finally assents to his change of sport.

The film reminds me of another low-key realistic drama from this year, the German Lucy, which was released earlier this year, and while it shares the limitations of that film, it also shares the dignified bittersweetness and pain of ordinary daily situations such as the son, upon coming home with the family, noticing before everyone else that the lights in the apartment are switched off, thereby indicating that the mother has once again flown the coop. There is also the touching sub-plot of the mute class-mate and the cute girl who befriends Tomasso and whom he quickly falls for. Even the best Italian films these days are compromised affairs and pale shadows of the long-forgotten glory days of Fellini, Risi, Antonioni, Pasolini, Rossellini et al but those folks are the sort whose influence could cripple anyone. There is something inevitable about the dramatic unshowiness of Libero but I cannot say that it is any the worse for that.