Alberto Sordi was that rare thing, a matinee idol with a gift for ridiculous comedy. (Imagine a voluble, foolish Cary Grant.) This nearly forgotten 1962 feature, directed by neorealist pioneer Alberto Lattuada (Fellini's co-director on Variety Lights), opens with Sordi's proud efficiency expert striding through a huge Milan factory. Modern times become more feudal once he returns to native Sicily for a vacation en famille. His northern wife and two young children are swept up in a series of huge meals and screaming reunions but the real culture shock is his. Sordi's adult persona disintegrates; he finds himself in thrall to the local don and, in a hilariously shocking turn of events, shipping out to Bay Ridge. Another superb Rialto reclamation job, Mafioso is as much an essay on the power of fascism as on that of the cosa nostra; it's scheduled to open early next year. September 30.
Woman on the Beach
He's hardly a household name, but with four films in the past five festivals, South Korea's Hong Sang-soo is the NYFF's reigning auteur. Like its predecessors, Woman on the Beach is a deadpan, melancholy erotic comedy. The typical Hong situationa callow thirtysomething male ambivalently woos a self-possessed if vulnerable womansounds like mid-period Woody Allen, but Hong's elliptical, riff-based humor, usually predicated on alcohol-induced disinhibition, is drier and more pointed. Only one of Hong's movies has snared a distributor; Woman on the Beach, which could be his best, remains in play. September 30 and October 1.
An ambitious movie of ideas, Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako's latest puts the World Bank on trial. The proceedings are staged in a village courtyard, but Bamako is less an allegory than a pageant. The trial incorporates all manner of domestic activities and political intrigue; there's even an action entr'acte in the form of a faux spaghetti western, featuring Danny Glover and Palestinian director Elia Suleiman. Playfully didactic, Bamako recalls the Brechtian political cinema of the early 1970s. Still, Paul Wolfowitz notwithstanding, the movie seems distractingly heavy-handed in using an elderly Jew to personify the "Trojan horse of international capitalism." No distributor. October 2 and 3.
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