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Directors in Focus
Nanni Moretti--A Life on Film

With the awarding of the Palme d’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival to Nanni Moretti’s new film, The Son’s Room, a wider international community has begun to learn what many have long known: that Moretti is a bellwether of contemporary Italian cinema. From the early 1970s, when his first Super-8 shorts were a hit with Roman cinema clubs, to this most recent success, the forty-seven-year-old Moretti has written, directed, and starred in each of his films—most often as Michele Apicella, a resilient alter ego in the tradition of Chaplin’s Little Tramp. An intellectual even amidst low-brow slapstick, Moretti, best known in this country for his celebrated Dear Diary, practices the art of balancing comedy with deeper metaphysical concerns and a political consciousness informed by his close involvement in the Italian Communist Party. This retrospective provides a long-overdue opportunity to discover the work of this idiosyncratic auteur, an artist whose charming restlessness and quest for ideological solutions has made him one of the most influential filmmakers of his generation in Europe.


September 21 (Friday) 7 pm
September 24 (Monday) 7 pm

The Opening Day of Close-UP (Il Giorno Della Prima di Close-Up)

Directed by Nanni Moretti
Italy 1996, 35mm, color, 7 min.
With Nanni Moretti
Italian with English subtitles

At his cinema in Rome, the Nuovo Sacher, Nanni Moretti anxiously oversees preparations for the premiere of the film Close-Up, by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. Meanwhile, Disney’s The Lion King is taking Italy by storm.

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screens with The Opening Day of Close-Up (see above)

April (Aprile)

Directed by Nanni Moretti
Italy/France 1998, 35mm, color, 78 min.
With Nanni Moretti, Silvio Orlando, Silvia Nono
Italian with English subtitles

A filmmaker (delightfully played by Moretti himself) is distracted by the impending birth of his first child and the possibility of the election of Italy’s first left-wing government. Caught up in his own indecision, anxiety, and egotism, he postpones his current production—a musical about a Trotskyite pastry chef—and turns his camera alternately to the political turmoil and the blessed event, investigating them both with a joyful, self-deprecating humor. The brilliant mixture of documentary and fiction contributes to this comic meditation on conflicts between the personal and the political, adulthood and infancy.

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September 21 (Friday) 9 pm
September 25 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Dear Diary (Caro Diario)

Directed by Nanni Moretti
Italy 1993, 35mm, color, 100 min.
With Nanni Moretti, Renato Carpentieri, Antonio Neiwiller
Italian with English subtitles

Moretti earned Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival for this unusual and deceptively simple melange of humorous and sober musings told in three vignettes. Relaxed and leisurely, Dear Diary is an effortless blend of documentary and fiction: part road movie, part sociological satire, part polemical reminiscence. In the first segment, wanderings and coincidences reveal Moretti’s views on cinema as he naively takes in a screening of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. The second episode, set in Sicily, riotously reflects on the lapse of the politics of the 1960s into marginality. In the final segment, Moretti touchingly turns the camera on his own struggle with cancer.


September 22 (Saturday) 7 pm
September 25 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Sweet Dreams (Sogni d'oro)

Directed by Nanni Moretti
Italy 1981, 35mm, color, 105 min.
With Nanni Moretti, Piera Degli, Laura Morante
Italian with English subtitles

In this early comedy, Moretti casts himself as Michele, a filmmaker living with his mother and trying to complete a screenplay entitled—ominously—“Freud’s Mother.” With a nod to Fellini’s 81/2, fiction and reality intermingle as the hapless cineaste begins to daydream scenes from his opus. The hallucinations culminate in a bizarre game-show scene, in which filmmakers engage in a verbal battle royale. Sweet Dreams, according to its director, “is not a film about cinema and it’s not even about the torments of an artist. . . . There’s suffering and pain in my film, but that’s not cinema, that’s life.” 

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Screens Sept 22 (Saturday) 9 pm
Screens Sept 23 (Sunday) 7 pm

The Mass is Over (La messa è finita)

Directed by Nanni Moretti
Italy 1985, 35mm, color, 94 min.
With Nanni Moretti, Margarita Lozano, Ferruccio De Ceresa
Italian with English subtitle

Don Giulio, a young, idealistic priest is assigned to his first parish after ten years of seclusion on a remote island. Arriving in Rome, he finds his new parishioners have defected en masse as a result of his predecessor’s amorous escapades. To make matters worse, his father is moving in with a younger woman, his unmarried sister is pregnant, and his best friend has become a terrorist. In a series of taut and wonderfully executed scenes, Moretti creates a meditation on the various forms love takes. Doubting his ability to solve his own problems, much less those of his flock, Don Giulio ponders life with a bewilderment and fascination that is perhaps not far from the filmmaker’s own distanced vantage point.

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September 26 (Wednesday) 7 pm
September 29 (Saturday) 7 pm

Palombella Rossa (Red Wood Pigeon)

Directed by Nanni Moretti
Italy 1989, 35mm, color, 89 min.
With Nanni Moretti, Silvio Orlando, Mariella Valentini
Italian with English subtitles

The recurring character of Michele (as always, played by Moretti) is here an official of the Italian Communist Party who experiences temporary amnesia as the result of a car accident. As he tries to reconstruct his life, dreams, and political motives—skewering militants, organized religion, parental relations, and even Dr.Zhivago along the way—the laughs flow freely. Using a water polo match (Moretti’s favorite sport) as an allegory for the stagnation of the Italian Communist Party, Moretti captures Michele’s personal tension in a culminating moment as he takes the decisive penalty shot.

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September 26 (Wednesday) 9 pm
September 28 (Friday) 7 pm

Sweet Body of Bianca (Bianca)

Directed by Nanni Moretti
Italy 1984, 35mm, color, 95 min.
With Nanni Moretti, Laura Morante, Roberto Vezzosi
Italian with English subtitles

Ostensibly more fictional than Moretti’s other films, Bianca focuses on a lonely young mathematician working at the ridiculously hip and liberal “Marilyn Monroe High School.” A control freak obsessed with idealized notions about happy family life, he meddles in his friends’ affairs in desperate attempts to prevent them from splitting up. When he falls in love with the woman of his dreams—the new French teacher—he comes to realize that the neat logic of math fails in matters of the heart. With his trademark dark humor, Moretti wryly wrestles with the cosmic condition.

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September 28 (Friday) 9 pm
September 30 (Sunday) 7 pm

Ecce Bombo

Directed by Nanni Moretti
Italy 1978, 35mm, color, 103 min.
With Nanni Moretti, Luisa Rossi, Glauco Mauri
Italian with English subtitles

Ecce Bombo, Moretti’s first feature in 35mm, took the Italian cinema by storm, generating accolades from critics and audiences alike. The director’s soon-to-be-ubiquitous alter ego, Michele, leads a fairly benign life, surrounded by a small group of friends who are more or less swamped by personal problems. After a series of political and amorous misadventures and a night waiting for the sunrise on a beach near Rome, the group tries to face life more seriously. 

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September 29 (Saturday) 9 pm

The Thing (La Cossa)

Directed by Nanni Moretti
Italy 1990, 35mm, color, 60 min.
Italian with English subtitles

This rapid-fire documentary, conceived as a companion piece to Palombella Rossa, traces the failure of the Italian Communist Party during a time of transition in the early 1990s. Infiltrating the party organization and eavesdropping on conversations, Moretti’s camera illuminates the history of the party’s ideology. Compelling, humorous, and thought-provoking, The Thing examines Communist culture past, present, and future as its invasive style and seemingly objective position flesh out the personalities behind the movement and push the political documentary into fresh territory.

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September 30 (Sunday) 9 pm

I Am Self-Sufficient (Io sono un autarchico)

Directed by Nanni Moretti
Italy 1976, 35mm, color, 95 min.
With Nanni Moretti, Simona Frosi, Andrea Pozzi
Italian with English subtitles 

Moretti shot his first feature film on Super-8 for about $1,500. This humorous parody of totalitarianism is realized in the setting of an experimental theater group as Michele (Moretti), in his first screen appearance, finds himself in the grip of a marital crisis. A big hit with the Italian “cinema club” audience, the film established Moretti as Italian cinema’s enfant terrible. Commenting on the film’s character, the director confessed the motivation for this alter ego: “Michele’s obsessions, neuroses, rage, and enthusiasm are all mine, they come out of me. The only way I can reach others is by starting with myself.”

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