I didn’t realise the convolutions. It wasn’t till after the viewing of it that I read Paul Byrnes critique of ‘Mia Madre’ in the Age to see what he thought. I’m afraid his opinion of it was more praiseworthy than mine. To me, the convolutions he revealed were almost as interesting as the film itself – which is another way of saying I’ve seen far better this year. That being stated, there were several scenes of magic within it and I was wiping away tears at the end – which, I am afraid, is nothing unusual for me.
The convolutions? Well, darling of the Italian film industry, Nanni Moretti, lost his mother during the making of his previous cinematic offering and this film concerns a brittle, harried film director (Margherita Buy) – and Moretti has her retain her own name for this role. She’s obviously playing him, according to Byrnes – just a female version, perhaps channelling his inner feminine self. This is a take on the old, much tackled chestnut of a film within a film – this one about union unrest. Buy, as the director, had the added pressure of a marriage going on the rocks, failing to have any idea of what’s going on with her daughter and her mind is playing tricks on her. Part of the problem with this movie is that it segues between reality and fantasy without the usual stock filmatic warnings, leaving the audience to work it out for themselves. We become quite adroit at this as it progresses – a tribute to the director I guess. To cap it all off, for Margherita, her mother is dying – a fact that she finds difficult to accept, as no doubt Moretti did, in the making of ‘We Have a Pope’. To complicate matters, Moretti himself plays the director’s brother in ‘Mia Madre’. The brother is more accepting of the situation and practical about his mother’s condition than his sister. He has stated how much he enjoyed playing the type of man he wishes he was. Yep, sure was convoluted
Then mega-star Barry Huggins turns up to play a lead in Buy’s movie. He propositions her (unsuccessfully) on their first meeting, has an over-inflated view of his own talent, but unfortunately can never seem to remember his lines. John Turturro, as Huggins, steals the show. His celebratory dancing is joy to behold, as is his flaying around for excuses for his inability to recall dialogue. He ‘fesses up, in the end, to the cause.
Byrnes sums it all up when he opines ‘It could be a little faster, a tad more upbeat, a pinch funnier,…’ but the French critics in particular, conversely, lapped this one up. One film journal labeled it the best film of 2015 from anywhere. It must have lost something in translation as far as I am concerned.