Agnelli


The Prince of Italy surveys his kingdom.

(2017) Documentary (HBO) Gianni Agnelli, Maria Sole Agnelli, Henry Kissinger, Lee Radziwill, Jackie Rogers, Vendeline von Bredow, Anna Mucci, Nicolo Caracciolo, Cristiana Brandolini,,Gianni Riotta., Valentino, Diane von Furstenberg, Jennifer Clark, Reinaldo Herrera, Isabella Ratazzi, Giorgio Garuzzo, Alain Elkann, Valerio Castronovo, Taki Theodoracopulos, Ginerva Elkann. Directed by Nick Hooker

 

Certain people come along in life who by force of personality become symbols for both good and ill. Our current President, for example, is a symbol of things that depending on your political persuasion may either fill you with hope or with disgust. Malala Yousafzai has become a symbol of extraordinary courage and for women’s rights. Jackie Kennedy, in her day, became a symbol of elegance and grace.

Gianni Agnelli from the late 1950s onward acted as a symbol for the Italian people. Known affectionately by his nickname “L’Avvocato” (the advocate), he was the grandson of the founder of Fiat Motors, which at one time employed 3% of the Italian workforce. He was groomed to become the CEO and helped revitalize postwar Italian industry in a time when Italy was in ruins. He also stood up to Red Brigade terrorists who in the 1970s kidnapped and assassinated the Italian Prime Minister as well as one of his own executives at Fiat.

During the 1950s and 1960s Agnelli was the symbol of Italian sophistication and glamour. It was an era immortalized in films like La Dolce Vita and Agnelli certainly was symbolic of that epoch. He threw fabulous parties, hung out with glamorous people (including Jackie, designers Valentino and Diane von Furstenberg, diplomat Henry Kissinger and actress Anita Ekberg). He liked to drive fast; while he drove a Fiat, it was equipped with a Ferrari engine (Fiat purchased Ferrari in order to keep it out of the hands of an American automaker).

Agnelli was a great believer in the American system as was his grandfather, who took many of the ideas Henry Ford used to make Ford Motors more efficient and used them to modernize his own. Agnelli saw America in it’s splendid postwar prosperity and knew that was the route Italy had to follow. However, the road wasn’t without bumps; his grandfather was forced out of Fiat after being falsely accused of collaborating with the fascists; even though he was exonerated the ordeal essentially killed him. During the 70s, Italy had a strong communist movement going on, spawning the Red Brigade; Agnelli saw this as potentially catastrophic to Italy in the same way fascism had been. He remained a strong proponent for capitalism and democracy during that time, even though it painted quite the target on his own back.

The documentary is a bit on the long side, dividing the life of Gianni Agnelli into five distinct periods. Most of the focus is devoted to the La Dolce Vita years during which time Agnelli was a fashion icon as well as a notorious ladies man (there were rumors he had an affair with Jackie Kennedy between the death of President Kennedy and her marriage to Aristotle Onasis). In many ways that was a fascinating period in his life but in many ways it’s more of a People magazine portion of the film rather than a Wall Street Journal portion which comes later. We get a lot of the glitz and glamour but what we don’t get is a lot of context. He is clearly revered in Italy and particularly in Turin, not only for refusing to lay off workers when his company was hemorrhaging money but also for owning the Juventus soccer club which is only slightly less important a religion in Turin as Roman Catholicism.

There are a lot of interviews with relatives (two sisters, several nieces and nephews), staff (his personal assistant as well as the groundskeeper and chef on his Italian estate) as well as friends both famous and not. While some of the interviews give us insight into the man, a lot of them cover the same ground. The adage “women wanted to be with him, men wanted to be him” is used both directly and indirectly dozens of times during the film. We get it.

I did like the archival footage, some of which are compelling historical documents; that seemed to work better for me than the endless interviews. There is no doubt that Gianni Agnelli led a fascinating life and was an important person in the 20th century particularly in Italy but the filmmakers don’t seem very inclined to get beneath the surface of the man who was clearly intelligent and forceful and get into the things that motivated him to make some of the decisions he made. This is one of those documentaries that could have used a lot less fluff and a lot more meat.

REASONS TO GO: Agnelli was the personification of Italian glamour at the zenith of La Dolce Vita. There are interesting insights to Italy’s postwar political history.
REASONS TO STAY: There are way too many talking heads. As interesting as it is, the film runs far too long.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some suggestive material.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: With a budget of $210 million U.S. this is the most expensive film ever made in France – to date.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: HBO Go
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/19/17: Rotten Tomatoes: No Score Yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Men Who Built America
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Murder on the Cape

The Double Hour (La doppia ora)


The Double Hour (La doppia ora)

Kseniya Rappoport may be emerging behind murky glass but the picture is growing no clearer.

(2009) Thriller (Goldwyn) Kseniya Rappoport, Filippo Timi, Antonia Truppo, Gaetano Bruno, Fausto Russo Alesi, Michele Di Mauro, Lorenzo Gioielli, Lidia Vitale, Lucia Poli, Giorgio Colangeli, Chiara Nicola, Gilda Postiglione Turco. Directed by Giussepe Capotondi

Some movies can’t really be described in too much detail without giving away vital twists and turns. The Italian thriller The Double Hour is a lot like that. That’s why the plot description is going to be a bit bare and vague.

Guido (Timi) is an ex-cop whose wife passed away three years earlier (we never find out how) and has become a somewhat diffident aficionado of speed dating. He is somewhat attractive in a hangdog kind of way, and his attempts at speed dating often lead to one night stands with desperate women (Vitale) that leave him unfulfilled.

He meets Sonia (Rappoport) at one of these. She is a Slovenian who has immigrated to Turin and is working as a hotel chambermaid. Recently she was witness to a horrific occurrence there. She is lonely and bored and is urged by her friend Margherita (Truppo) to get out more. She goes to the same speed date and runs into Guido.

Something happens between the two. The beginnings of a relationship begin to form. He invites her to the country estate where he is currently working as a security guard, showing her some of the sound equipment he’s built from scratch. They go for a walk in the idyllic countryside grounds of the estate. That’s when things go decidedly and horribly wrong.

Capotondi has a background in music videos. He utilizes music nicely, such as The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” which shows up in a more sinister way than perhaps Robert Smith ever envisioned his song becoming. Capotondi has said in interviews that he is influenced by Italy’s giallo horror films of Dario Argento and his brethren. Sections of the movie show it quite clearly. He also seems to have a thing about Hitchcock, as portions of the movie also show. There are also some Brian de Palma moments as well. The movie is at various times a supernatural thriller, a heist picture, a romantic drama and an art film. You can decide what description is most apt on your own.

The acting is superb here. Rappoport has been getting a great deal of acclaim for her performance. She has moments where she seems as fragile as a waif, lost and lonely. There are other times where she is strong and assertive, particularly when she is dealing with Guido’s fellow policeman Dante (Di Mauro) who has some suspicions regarding events at the villa.

The movie is surreal in places and will leave you with your head spinning. You almost wish you had a rewind button in the theater, thinking to yourself, did I just see what I think I saw? In some ways it will be less effective on DVD/Blu-Ray because people will be using their rewind buttons and slow-mo features which might spoil some of the surprises.

Subtitles will turn some off, and so will the abrupt mood and style shifts. There is one shift in particular, between the second and third act that is jarring to the point where you almost wonder if the filmmakers decided they didn’t like the script, junked it and started a new one at that point. It may make purists a little perturbed.

Still, this is a movie worth hanging in there for. The twists and turns here are amazing, as good as any movie since perhaps The Sixth Sense or Memento. This is a movie that is as good as any theme park ride, and those who are willing to go along for the ride won’t be disappointed. Just beware: this is not a kiddy ride in any sense. This is a ride only for those who aren’t afraid of adult thrills. This is that roller coaster with so many inversions you don’t know which way is up when you get off the ride and the only thing you can think about is getting right back on for another shot. The Double Hour (which refers to the time on the digital clock when the hour readout is the same as the minute readout, such as 10:10 or 12:12 – or 23:23 for those European readers) is like that, and it’s the kind of movie that bears repeated viewings and will certainly inspire some discourse once you’ve seen it the first time.

REASONS TO GO: Wonderful twists and turns. Haunting performance by Rappoport. This is the kind of movie that inspires spirited discussions.

REASONS TO STAY: One of the movie’s major twists is so abrupt that some might find it off-putting.

FAMILY VALUES: Although not rated, there is some sexuality and nudity, a bit of bad language and some violence.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Rappoport won the Volpi Cup as Best Actress at the 66th Venice Film Festival in 2009.

HOME OR THEATER: Chances are you will have trouble finding it at your local Bijou, but should work just as effectively on your home screen.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

TOMORROW: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo