Friday, November 7, 2014

Movie with Abe: Viva la Libertà

Viva la Libertà
Directed by Roberto Andò
Released November 7, 2014

Watching one foreign film that makes it over to the United States shouldn’t define an international actor’s career, but it very often does just that, at least for American audiences. While Javier Bardem and Marion Cotillard have expanded to a multitude of roles, some, like Jean Dujardin, will need to work hard to be remembered as more than just one iconic character. Another actor, Toni Servillo, made an impression as a less than showy protagonist in an extremely showy film, last year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, “The Great Beauty.” Impressively, Servillo has selected a follow-up film that permits him to make a wholly new and extremely formidable impression.

At the start of “Viva la Libertà,” which fairly obviously translates to “long live freedom,” Servillo first appears as someone not too unlike his character from “The Great Beauty,” quietly standing at the center of a much louder world. Here, Servillo is Enrico Oliveri, the minority leader in Italy’s government, celebrated by some and despised by others. After being heckled when he is slow to start his speech, Enrico decides that he needs a break and disappears to France, where he reconnects with his old flame Danielle (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and gets to know her precocious daughter and filmmaker husband. A politician retreating from public life to reconnect with the simpler pleasures of anonymity would in itself be a perfectly worthwhile premise for a film.

And yet that’s only half of this film. Back in Italy, Enrico’s loyal number two, Andrea (Valerio Mastandrea), desperately tries to prop up the missing senator and make excuses for his absence. His efforts lead him to a surprising discovery – that Enrico has an identical twin brother, Giovanni, who has recently completed a psychiatric stay. A plan to have Giovanni pretend to be his brother is expectedly hatched, but it comes along with something far less anticipated: Giovanni himself. The polar opposite of his brother, Giovanni deflects reporter questions with philosophical proclamations and astounds everyone he speaks to with his newfound intellectual attitude on the decaying state of the party he used to champion.

Servillo delivers an incredible dual performance, imbuing Enrico with a subdued energy that allows him to take in the feelings and emotions of those around him and Giovanni with an incomparable charisma, ready to speak about whatever it is that pleases him regardless of what has been said to or asked of him. Both characters are fascinating, and seeing one actor play both is mesmerizing. Tedeschi is wonderful as well, and it’s great to see the actress, who appeared in Italy’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film, “Human Capital,” having such a busy international year. It’s hard to classify “Viva la Libertà” since it doesn’t easily fit into one genre, laden with political diatribe, humor, and a more serious underlying sense of what it means to be committed to something. All in all, this is a blast, and a highly memorable one at that.


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