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aka - Cuore Altrova, Il
Italy 2003
Directed by
Pupi Avati
107 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Heart Elsewhere, A

Synopsis: Nello (Neri Marcore), the unworldly son of the Pope’s tailor (Giancarlo Giannini) arrives in Bologna to take up a post as a teacher of Greek and Latin. He meets and falls in love with the beautiful Angela (Vanessa Incontrada), recently blinded in an accident.

Watching this film I kept recalling Bertrand Blier’s Trop Belle Pour Toi (Too Beautiful For You) in which a car salesman (Gerard Depardieu) with a stunning wife (played by one-time, Vogue model, Carole Bouquet) has an affair with his dumpy secretary. Avati restores beauty to its traditional place (and a more plausible one, Depardieu in real life left his not-so-dumpy but longer-in-the-tooth wife for Bouquet) and the result is a very traditional, wistful romance.

No ladies’ man (in looks think John Turturro) and a chronic romantic, at 35 Nello has never even kissed a woman. A sexual encounter is evidently the main item on his agenda. Initially we are thrown a few leads that give no indication of where the film is heading, either story-wise, or attitudinally. Perplexity continues when Angela appears, although for a different reason. Clearly we have locked into the main part of the narrative but the question now is ‘why is Angela so ravishing?’. Given that Nello is desperate, any reasonable-looking embodiment of femininity would have done the job. Incontrada is not only ravishing, she speaks in a seductive, whispering voice and sheaths her willowy frame in opalescent satins. Is she Aphrodite or a Siren whose pleasure is to lure men to their doom? This poetic, mythic question is very much Avati’s agenda. The fact that (inexplicably for a tailor’s son) Nello is a teacher of Greek and Latin permits various allusions to classical love poetry to be woven into the adroit script whilst Angela’s blindness give futher justification for the narrative to inhabit the abstracted realm of idealized love.

This is where there are likely to be differences of opinion about the film's merits. It is a fantasy, a time-honoured idolization of female beauty set against a picture-postcard backdrop of antique Italy, high-tone escapism with no hint of Blieresque irony, psychological insight or dramatic dynamics. Whilst realists/sceptics (like myself) will find it difficult to forbear the lack of credibility, the film is unquestionably visually beguiling (the costumes and settings as much as Ms Incontrado), Marcore (a popular comedian) brings an engaging poise to his role as the endlessly-defeated lover, and Giancarlo Giannini is wonderful as his womanising father, antithetically earth-bound but in his own way, as much a romantic as his dreamy son.




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