Posts Tagged ‘Pierfrancesco Favino’

Death is Always with Us

The Traitor

Director: Marco Bellocchio

Cast: Pierfrancesco Favino, Maria Fernando Candido, Nicola Cali, Fausto Russo Alesi, Luigi Lo Cascio

If viewers want an authentic Italian mafia film, then watch director Marco Bellocchio’s brilliant and atmospheric thriller The Traitor starring international Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino (Rush, My Cousin Rachel) as Tommaso Buscetta a former member of the Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia who flees Italy to go and live an exiled life in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Buscetta then turns state witness and joins the Italian prosecutors in attempting to persecute the high ranking members of the Cosa Nostra who evolved their cigarette smuggling business into a multi-million dollar heroin operation. All the implicated members of the Sicilian mafia are ruthless gangsters who feel nothing at killing an opponent’s children or relatives as well as killing them off. People are murdered in broad daylight or have their arms hacked off.

Toto Riina is the mafia kingpin who controls all these high ranking gangsters and as Buscetta turns traitor and rats on all of them. They all get arrested and stand trial in a bizarre and outrageous trial which is chaotic, sinister and shambolic from the potential convicts having epileptic fits to stripping naked in a packed courthouse.

Buscetta’s turbulent life is balanced by the calm guidance of Judge Giovanni Falcone played by Fausto Russo Alesi who realizes that by helping the traitor he is putting a target on his own back. In a poignant scene between Falcone and Buscetta they both realize that their imminent death is guaranteed and that death is always with them.

Certainly in The Traitor, there are a lot of killings including a particularly brutal seen whereby Buscetta’s two sons are tortured along with a devastating explosion along a Sicilian highway killing a key character in the film.

Buscetta gets witness protection for himself and his wife Cristina wonderfully played by Maria Fernando Candido who was nominated for a Best Actress Award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

They move to America and keep relocating to various places from Tampa, Florida to Salem, New Hampshire to Fort Collins, Colorado. Ultimately, Buscetta makes the decision to return to Rome to assist in prosecuting some of the remaining members of the notorious Cosa Nostra.

In the tradition of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and more recently director Martin Scorsese’s Oscar nominated The Irishman, director Marco Bellocchio’s The Traitor is more of an authentic chronological account of the rise and fall of the Cosa Nostra in Italy from Palermo to Rome, from Rio de Janeiro to Miami, a gritty and grand narrative of arrests, assassinations and sacrifice without an extravagant American flourish.

The best scenes in The Traitor are the bizarre courtroom scenes in Rome and Palermo and Bellochio’s method of pacing the film to not only shock audiences but keep them in utter suspense.

The Traitor is sometimes difficult to watch, violent, unapologetic and cruel but ultimately at the end it is a rewarding and thought provoking film about the Italian mafia which for over the last 50 years has been mythologized by the abundance of American films on this subject.

Thankfully, The Traitor is written and directed from a uniquely Italian perspective which gives it an operatic quality and gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. Highly recommended viewing, but be warned this is a two and a half hour film.

Unbridled Extravagance

My Cousin Rachel

Director: Roger Michell

Cast: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger, Pierfrancesco Favino, Andrew Knott, Tim Barlow

South African born British based director Roger Michell has been responsible for such films as Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, Morning Glory and Hyde Park on Hudson. Michell returns with a cinematic adaptation of the Victorian Gothic romantic drama by Daphne du Maurier My Cousin Rachel set in the dramatic cliffs of Devon and Cornwall and also in Florence Italy.

My Cousin Rachel is a handsome cinematic production held together by a suitably ambiguous performance by Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, Youth) as Rachel Ashley who arrives in England to seduce the impressionably young Philip Ashley wonderfully played with besotted bewilderment by Sam Claflin (Me Before You, Their Finest and The Riot Club) who is proving to be one Britain’s rising young actors.

When young Philip’s legal guardian travels to Tuscany to recuperate and then mysteriously dies, leaving Philip’s claim to his cousin’s massive estate in a precarious position, Philip travels to Italy to uncover the source of the mystery surrounding his new relative the beautiful Rachel. Upon arrival in Italy he does not meet Rachel but the Italian lawyer handling his cousin’s affairs played by Pierfrancesco Favino (Rush, Angels and Demons), who Philip suspects is conniving with Rachel to steal Philip’s rightful inheritance.

Back in England, advised by his godfather Nick Kendall played by Game of Thrones star Iain Glen and his daughter Louisa played by Holliday Grainger (Cinderella, The Finest Hours and Anna Karenina), Philip is initially weary of Rachel as she sets foot on English soil soon to arrive at the family home at dusk.

Incredibly dramatic, the one thing Philip has not had in his life is any female influences so naturally he is completely beguiled by the beautiful and exotic half Italian Rachel who makes such a fashionable entrance in local society, which is enough to cause a mild scandal.

But as family jewels are generously given away and as Philip approaches his 25th birthday upon which he will rightfully inherit his cousin’s massive estate, intrigue within the landed gentry is heightened by the scheming and provocative Rachel who often dressed in mourning is portrayed as a sort of Black Widow, a woman with a rumoured  history of killing off husbands to profit off their inheritances.

My Cousin Rachel is the Victorian femme fatale, a noir female character who is subtly undermining all that the male hero is trying to achieve, which in this case is quenching his unbridled lust matched only by Rachel’s own unbridled extravagance. Sexual tensions simmer as the scheming continues, but as the narrative draws to a dramatic conclusion, My Cousin Rachel leaves audiences with a portrait of a woman with considerably dubious intentions.

My Cousin Rachel gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and will be enjoyed by audiences that love period dramas with a touch of the Victorian Gothic, especially scenes of luminous pearls cascading down darkened candlelit staircases.

Champions of the World

Rush

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Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, James Norton, Olivia Wilde, Christian McKay, David Calder, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Natalie Dormer, Pierfrancesco Favino

Oscar winning director of A Beautiful Mind Ron Howard tackles the fast and affluent world of Formula One Motor Racing in the new biographical drama Rush centering on the brutal and brash rivalry between reckless English racing driver James Hunt, gorgeously played by Australian actor Chris Hemsworth and cautious Austrian driver Niki Lauder, brilliantly played by the European actor Daniel Bruhl.

Screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen), who first collaborated with Howard on the slick film version Frost /Nixon offers a crisply written script, as the narrative of Rush doesn’t waste time showing the glamorous international and ruthless world of Formula One racing with drivers speeding around the circuits of Monaco, Kyalami, Monza, Valencia and Sao Paolo. Yet despite all the thrill, danger and spectacle, Morgan weaves a brutal and exacting tale of professional rivalry between Lauder and Hunt framed within the media-frenzied competitive jet set world of Formula One, presenting an ego driven portrait of two men at the peak of their careers, just as he did in the exemplary Frost / Nixon.

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The film’s stunning opening scene features Hunt seducing a British nurse played by Natalie Dormer (W.E.) which immediately sets the tone for the 1970’s, a decade known for easy sex, drugs and partying, providing an insight into a carefree decadent era in which the ambitious race car drivers soon graduate to Formula One. Where Lauder is mechanically minded, disciplined and ambitious, James Hunt is reckless, celebrity driven and risk seeking, a driver who is never shy to compete in an ongoing bitter global challenge to become the Number 1 World Championship Racing Car Driver.

Lauder’s wife Marlene is played by Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara and the gorgeous Olivia Wilde makes a stunning appearance as beautiful swish model Suzy Miller who soon becomes James Hunt’s wife, despite his reckless lifestyle. From Ibiza to Bologna, from Sao Paulo to Germany, Rush is a superbly orchestrated biopic of the rivalry between these two Champions of the World, and for all those fans of Formula One, this film is not to be missed. Especially look out for the vividly recreated infamous crash sequence that Niki Lauder is involved in as he gets trapped in a fiery Ferrari in the Nurburgring racetrack in Germany in August 1976 along with the riveting final race of the season set on a rain-soaked Japanese track in the shadow of Mount Fiji.

Spanish-German actor Daniel Bruhl best known for Inglourious Basterds is utterly believable as the goal-driven and infamously determined Austrian racing driver Niki Lauder whilst Hemsworth (Snow White and the Huntsman, Thor) proves his worth as a versatile Shakespearean trained actor producing an upper crust English accent. The real star of Rush besides the excellent script and film direction is the unbelievable sound editing, which makes this film all the more worthwhile and gripping in a Digital Cinema. Highly recommended for the glitz bravado, the incredible speed and the blood stained price of success, Rush is a well-crafted film, a winning formula that elegantly delves into a fast paced racing arena really suitable for playboys and daredevils.

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