Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

26 March 2006

La Bestia nel Cuore / Metropolitan

Cristina Comencini's film (based on her own novel) Don't Tell is a sincere, earnest drama about the secrecy and stigma of sexual abuse. The title in Italian is La Bestia nel Cuore, which, you can probably deduce, doesn't have anything to do with telling anything to anybody. Personally, I like the title "The Beast in the Heart" way better than "Don't Tell" but what do I know about marketing a film? The film really isn't much to talk about, so I won't go into it too much. It's sort of standard fare for movies about repressed sexual abuse. It stars the gorgeous Giovanna Mezzogiorno, who I loved in The Last Kiss (a really good film) and Alessio Boni and Luigi Lo Cascio (both from The Best of Youth, which I still haven't seen. Don't Tell has more problems than its re-tread of overly familiar territory; it's also burdened with far too many main characters (five), and an untenable length. The movie stars are pretty and the issue is important, but Don't Tell has nothing much new to say.

Whit Stillman's 1990 film Metropolitan, on the other hand, has loads to say. It hasn't been available on DVD and I've been wanting to see Metropolitan for years, but the new Criterion Collection DVD is really lovely and worth the wait. Metropolitan is mostly about talk. It's a gentle satire of a group of young New York socialites in the late 1980's: they cristen themselves UHB's—the urban haute bourgeoisie—to which one of them says, "Is our language really so inadequate that we are forced to mine the French language for adequate acronyms to describe ourselves?" The film follows the group around as they try to connect and grow up (but mostly just talk). It's about finding honesty in a group of people and how difficult that can be and acting out and doing the right thing when given a chance. Metropolitan has charm to spare. It doesn't make any sense to me, but writer/director Whit Stillman only ever made three films and then stopped after 1998's The Last Days of Disco (also excellent.) Like Disco, Metropolitan stars, as its cynical center, Christopher Eigeman, who I find wickedly charismatic and very funny in his deadpan way. The screenplay is a work of startling brilliance, full of clever discussions, fascinating non sequitors and quietly tragic situations. Highly recommended. I'm going to rent his second film, Barcelona, very soon.

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