Dir: Maria Sole Tognazzi. Italy. 2003. 89mins
Five friends meet up in a country house somewhere outside Rome over a long winter weekend. Each has unresolved relationship problems, some have problems with each other, and memories of other weekends in the same house hang in the air like distorting mirrors. More The Slight Draft than The Big Chill, Maria Sole Tognazzi's ensemble comedy cannot hope to emulate the Lawrence Kasdan classic, but it is an enjoyable, local-consumption generational comedy that has struck a chord with the twenty- and thirty-something urban Italians it portrays. Released in early April, it has taken $197,025 (Euros 184,218) at the Italian box office after two weeks. Present Perfect also represents Maria Sole Tognazzi's debut on the cinema scene following in the footsteps of her two brothers, director Ricky and actor Gianmarco, who plays a cameo role in the film. Their father, Ugo Tognazzi, perhaps the most versatile actor of his generation, was one of the legends of post-war Italian cinema.
Cinema is a strong presence in the film: three of the five friends are actors waiting for calls from their agent (two for the same role, in a simmering rivalry that eventually comes to a head). And the director's own experience of being 'the daughter of' is mediated through the character of Edoardo (Oliva), son of a famous Italian actor, who is all but crushed by the weight of expectation.
The film's casting throws an ironic sidelight on the same theme, at least for those in the know: the other famous scion on view here, apart from the director's brother Gianmarco, is Valentina Cervi, grand-daughter of Gino (Peppone in the Don Camillo films), who plays the vampish but sex-starved Carola (and who will next be seen in Peter Greenaway's Tulse Luper project). But this is no Bellissima - Luchino Visconti's 1951 satire of Cinecitta - Present Perfect's digs at the film industry are the dressing rather than the whole dish.
The five leads are friends in real life, and this Italian brat-pack bonding acts as a useful cement, conveying a warm glow of affection which is, in the end, this film's most lasting message: friends may not be able to solve our problems, but at least they can provide problems of their own to nestle up against, like the mobile phones that are stacked side by side in this rural outpost, straining after a weak signal.
If the exercise works, it does so because the film does not try too hard - unlike another recent Italian turning 30 crisis movie, Gabriele Muccino's The Last Kiss. The characters are well drawn, the mood relaxed and the music saleable (with songs by the thirty-something's favourite suicidal songsmith, Nick Drake, and atmospheric strings by Andrea Guerra). Editing is sharp, and the dialogue, while rarely as sharp as in Kasdan's classic, scores some hits ('Are you an actor too'' 'No, I work').
One aspect that does not quite come off are the regular flashbacks to a summer weekend in the same house that are spliced into the action. Although these contain some good lines, they are confusingly unmarked (only the bikinis tell us we are in the past) and add little to our grasp of character or motivation. But overall, Present Perfect is a decent, entertaining generational niche-filler.
Prod co: Seal Production
Backers: Medusa Film, Tele Plus
Prods: Barbara Genio, Ilaria Cirino Pomicino
Scr: Daniele Prato, Maria Sole Tognazzi
Cinematography: Giulio Pietromarchi
Prod des: Enzo De Camilis
Ed: Walter Fasano
Music: Andrea Guerra
Main cast: Paola Cortellesi, Valentina Cervi, Claudio Santamaria, Ignazio Oliva, Claudio Gioe