Film Scouts Diaries

2010 Torino Film Festival Diaries
Farewell, Mr. Monicelli

by Henri Béhar

And then the news hit: Mario Monicelli, a hugely popular director (nearly 70 films) and screenwriter (over a hundred scripts), just died in Rome. He was 95. No, he did not die of "old age"; he jumped from a fifth-floor balcony of the San Giovanni Hospital, where he was being treated for prostate cancer. With such films as I Soliti Ignoti ("Big Deal on Madonna Street", 1958), La Grande Guerra ("The Great War", 1959), I Compagni ("The Organizer", 1963) and Amici Miei ("My Friends", 1975), he had helped define the Italian comedy genre: You talk about social problems, yet you remain popular. The worse things get - poverty, hunger, old age, sickness, death - the more you laugh. No happy end, please, we're Italian.

The film chosen by the Festival to honor Monicelli is a perfect example of how dark the director could be without losing any of his humor. In The Organizer Marcello Mastroianni plays an idealistic professor who incites workers in Torino to strike. Now who would have thought a film about the revolt of downtrodden workers in a Torino textile factory at the end of the 19th century could be so… yes, entertaining. Nothing is brushed aside; everything that may affect or characterize the workers' miserable lives is vividly detailed in a string of simple episodes. But the script is so lean, the tempo so lively, the camera work so top-notch, the black-and-white so subtly shaded, and the acting so strong – down to the last extra – that you come out of the theatre ready to hug and kiss your fellow man.

Debra Granik's Winter's Bone emerged as the clear winner of the 28th Torino Film Festival competition. The film grabbed the Best Film Award; the Best Actress trophy went to its young star Jennifer Lawrence (shared). Omid Djalili got the Best Actor Award for his performance in The Infidel.

You will find the full list of winners on the Festival website,

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