Cannes may be the festival d’auteurs, but more and more these days, with fewer foreign films reaching stateside art houses, many filmgoers don’t know much about the top filmmakers around the world. Nanni Moretti, known as the Italian Woody Allen because he writes, directs and acts in his films, which range from the dramatic to the hilariously self-referential, is debuting his latest, Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope) Friday in the Cannes competition. Here’s a quick profile of the filmmaker by Simon Abrams:
Introductory Must-See: Caro Diario (Dear Diary) is organized around scattershot journal entries about everything from how depressing Moretti found Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and how easy it is to get distracted by soap operas and telephones to how long it took for him to get properly diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease.
Most Widely Recognized Film: The Son’s Room. The winner of the Palme D’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, Moretti’s straightforward domestic melodrama deals with the impact of the premature death of a young man on his family. Moretti plays a psycho-analyst and the father of the deceased.
Best Song Cue: Brian Eno’s “By This River” in the last scene of The Son’s Room.
Most Bewildering Film: Palombella Rossa (Red Lob). Moretti taps into his own personal experiences playing water polo as a child to create this heady, surreal drama that equates amnesia and water polo with personal accountability and contemporary communism.
Most Overtly Political Film: Il Caimano (The Alligator). In the final scene of this drama, Moretti throws his biggest political punch, playing current Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. At the same time, the film’s main character, a struggling, Roger Corman-esque film producer, is working on a film within Moretti’s film about the shady nature of the capital Berlusconi used to become a building developer.
Frequent Preoccupation: Singing and dancing. Moretti’s characters are often performing. He sings off-key in the car (The Son’s Room), on-stage (Caro Diario) and even struggles to flesh out a scenario for a musical featuring a Trotskyite pastry chef (Caro Diario).
Stylistic Signature: One idea per scene, often unexplained. Moretti’s films often raise the consciousness of his protagonists, often played by him. What you see is often what you get with Moretti and he expects audiences to keep up with his mile-a-minute thought process.