Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Mia Madre

Reviews - Mia Madre

Mia Madre

Reviewed By Ian Payne

Mia Madre
Mia Madre
As the house lights went up after Mia Madre, a voice in front of me was heard to say 'confused' which was probably a fair description of the work we had just seen.

Central to the film was a stand-out performance by Margherita Buy, as a Film Director, also called Margherita. Margherita's movies are in the 'social realist' bracket and she is making a film about an industrial dispute in a factory in Rome. We see her at work on the set. She is not the stereotypical authoritarian cliché of a Director but someone lacking in confidence in her decisions, constantly seeking reassurance from the production crew around her yet critical when they make the decisions delegated to them. She issues bewildering instructions to the actors and in the opening scenes she is concerned that Mr Huggins' stand-in looks nothing like him.

Away from the film set, her life begins to unravel. Her mother, a much loved and respected teacher of Latin, is ill in hospital and Margherita is in denial of severity of her condition; her teenage daughter is playing her off against her ex husband and putting off revising her Latin homework (it was amusing to note that Italian teenagers cannot see the benefit of learning Latin either); her apartment is flooded and she is breaking up with her current partner. The only constant in her life is her brother, played by Nanni Moretti, the Director of Mia Madre.

The pressures and Margherita's conflicting emotions start to manifest themselves through flashbacks and dreams. When we see her mother stood in a long queue of people outside the cinema about to show her new film, Margherita's issues about approval are evident.

Cue Barry Huggins. John Turturro is given free rein to play an obnoxious Italian-American actor, flown in to play the boss of the factory, presumably to give it some box office clout. Barry's Italian roots clearly do not go deep and his inability to remember his lines is made worse by his tenuous grasp of the language. His arrival on set presents Margherita with a whole new set of challenges.

It was a bravura performance by John Turturro but something akin to having Keith Moon playing drums during a performance of a Mozart concerto.

In portraying Margherita's breakdown, Director Nanni Moretti's use of flashbacks and dream sequences could and perhaps should have worked well. The immediate impact, however , was to make the viewer wonder what he or she was watching when each new scene came on screen. Allied to the fact that three of the actors were remarkably similar in appearance, 'confused' was not a surprising comment in the immediate aftermath.

Altogether less than the sum of its parts, Mia Madre should be remembered best for a fine, controlled performance by Margherita Buy as a woman clearly on the edge.

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