Doomed to Subtitles and Other Tales

I’m beginning to suspect that I will never see an English-language film theatrically again. The only one I’ve seen in the last three months is Blades of Glory–an outing that had more to do with parenting than cinephilia.

Today I decided to break that track record and go see Hot Fuzz. But when I got to the theater, I discovered that I had the times wrong and I was late by half an hour. But my timing was right to see Mafioso, which was also on my list even though it’s not in English.

How was Mafioso? I laughed many times, often with hearty enthusiasm, at this rediscovered “classic” 1962 Italian comedy. But I also spent too much time wondering when it would once again be funny, or at least interesting. The best moments come early, with the resulting culture shock when the factory manager protagonist (the great comic actor Alberto Sordi) brings his blonde wife and children to his native Sicily–a place that appears only slightly more civilized than Borat’s Kazakhstan. But director Alberto Lattuada and his five credited writers fail to either consistently keep the comic pace or layer in enough reality to hold our interest when the humor slacks off. And when Mafioso takes a serious turn in the third act, that lack of reality is nearly fatal.

Different subject: Last month I offered my Criteria for the Very Best Films of All Time. The criteria was so strict that, out of probably hundreds of films I love dearly, only seven qualified.

Just this evening, as I was washing the dishes, I realized that I missed a film: Annie Hall. It has all of my criteria: substance, humanity, entertainment, original craftsmanship, and it has stood the test of time. And yes, I’m entirely comfortable calling it one of the eight greatest films ever made.

One more thing: I’ve seen the closing night film for the San Francisco International Film Festival: the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie En Rose. It’s a sad, fascinating, always-intriguing life story of an artist blessed with enormous talent and cursed by a horrendous childhood, bad luck, and her own selfish and unpleasant personality. This isn’t an easy film to watch, but it’s impossible to ignore. Great songs, too. You can read my microreview here. If you don’t want to deal with the hoopla and hassles of the festival’s closing night, La Vie En Rose gets a full release this summer.

Speaking of Festival films that getting regular releases, the theater preceded Mafioso with a trailer for Adam’s Apples, my favorite film from last year’s festival. It’s opening for one-week runs in Berkeley and San Francisco on May 11. You can read my microreview here.