March 29, 2015 | Rome, Italy | Sunny 18°C
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Comedy-Romantic Comedy

Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes)

Argentine director Damián Szifron shows how little things gone amiss can produce dark twists.

Wild Canaries

Laurence Michael Levin's screwball comedy is neither screwy nor particularly funny.

Drama

Trois couleurs: Blanc (Three Colors: White)

Kieslowski's "Three Colors: White" still ranks among the "sweetest" revenge movies ever concocted.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Michael Keaton is the mesmerizing fall guy in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s movie about acting, celebrity and identity.

Whiplash

For an indie movie, Damien Chazelle's jazz boot camp story has a decidedly Hollywood feel.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Sam Taylor-Johnson's painful take on E.L. James's BDSM novel leaves everyone shackled.

Inherent Vice

Stoner movies risk drugged-out self-indulgence, and Paul Thomas Anderson's latest qualifies.

Horror

Eden Lake

James Watkins saw the brooding talent of Jack O'Connell but stock horror has its limits.

The Babadook

Jennifer Kent's psychological horror thriller is at once predictable but enticingly off-kilter.

Westerns

The Homesman

Tommie Lee Jones again proves himself at home making and starring a Western.




Date: 1991
Directed by: Marco Risi
Starring: Corso Salani, Angela Finocchiaro, Antonello Fassari

Il Muro di Gomma (The Rubber Wall)

Early 1990s Italy answered in part to the Mani Pulite ("Clean Hands") bribery and embezzlement probe that ultimately destroyed both the country's Christian Democratic and Socialist parties. At the time, political moviemaking had pulse. Director Marco Risi (son of Dino Risi) did his crusading part by fictionalizing journalist Andrea Purgatori's efforts to get to the truth behind the infamous Ustica crash.

In June 1980, a DC-9 headed from Bologna to Palermo disintegrated inexplicably over the Sicilian island of Ustica. Writing in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, Purgatori alleged that errant NATO fire had brought down the plane. Air force and political officials stonewalled demands to make air controller tapes of the plane's disappearance a matter of public record.

In Risi's fictionalized behind-the-headlines story, Purgatori is a journalist named Rocco Ferrante (Corso Salani), who works for years to get to the heart of the matter but time and again is denied information and answers. He turns obsessed and near-paranoid, with fellow journalists questioning his stability. His reporting ultimately leads to a criminal hearing that suggests a cover-up but lacks the details to prove it. At the end, in driving rain, Ferrante dresses down an Italian air force general he's convinced has lied under oath to magistrates.

The narrative is no-frills chilling and very Italian, particularly since the mystery remains unsolved three decades later. "The rubber wall" of the film's title is the one around Italian state secrets, covered by an official code of silence in the way Mafia crimes are protected by so-called omertà. Though four Italian air force generals were ultimately charged with falsifying documents, perjury and abuse of office, two were acquitted and the other two never went to trial.

Italian filmmakers, once emboldened, no longer bother with these kind of biopics, resigned instead to the country's great unknowns.

Reviewed by: Marcia Yarrow
Day and Boarding International High School in the Heart of Rome

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