QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM CANNES
Giovanni is desperately trying to finish his latest creation, a film about Italian communists set in Rome during the 1950s. A number of obstacles stand on his way: a stubborn actress, crippling finances and his very own collapsing marriage to Paola (Margherita Buy). The fact that protagonist is played by Nanni Moretti leaves very little doubt that the 69-year-old director inserted many autobiographical elements here. Set in present-day Rome, A Brighter Future is a movie about an old-fashioned auteur seeking meaning in film, in love and also in politics, as the world and the industry change extremely fast.
The untitled film-within-the-film (which takes up about half of A Brighter Tomorrow‘s runtime of 96 minutes) portrays the dilemma that the Italian Communist Party faces as Stalin distances himself from the essential communist ideals in favour of authoritarianism. They welcome a Hungarian circus company fleeing the murderous Soviet leader with open arms. Pacifist communist Rosa Luxemburg is their role model. The film protagonists experience a turbulent romance, with parallels to the predicament of Giovanni and Paola.
Metalanguage is prominent in the entire movie, which seamlessly blends sequences from the film-within-a-film with the trials and tribulations of the despondent Giovanni. There is even a film-within-a-film-within-a-film, as the characters of the film-within-a-film watch La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1961). There is also a brief extract from Lola (Jacques Demy, 1961). Ultimately, A Brighter Tomorrow is an informal meta-memoir and also a love letter to the cinema of yesterday. The message is crystal clear: let’s all hope that better days are to come!
Nanni Moretti instills both his film and the film-within-the-film with jolly music. This includes Beethoven’s ebullient Allegretto, Joe Dassin’s ultra-romantic Si Tu n’Existais Pas, Aretha Franklin’s uplifting warble and numerous Italian pop songs (Battiato, De Andrè e Tenco). At times, the music gets the entire film set to stand up and dance. Joy is contagious, and I’m sure audience members would do just the same if they didn’t risk obstructing the view and evoking the wrath from the people sitting behind them. After all, a movie is not a film concert. Unfortunately for cinephiles such as I.
The film industry is changing so quickly that Giovanni isn’t prepared to adhere. His negotiations with Netflix fail tremendously: he becomes very annoyed at the American company repeatedly boasting that they are in 190 countries, while also lecturing him about the precise minute in which the conflict should kick in in a movie (in one of the film’s best scenes). Ideologies are also shifting swiftly. The days of when the Communist Party had two million members are long gone, with an incredulous a member of Giovanni’s crew thinking “communist” was but an insult. the days when the most prominent filmmakers in the world were communists are also long gone (even though he never registered with the Italian Communist Party, Moretti actively participated in leftist extra-parliamentary groups during his youth). Moretti’s proxy Giovanni also shudders at violence: not only his film portrays Italian Communists breaking ranks with an increasingly oppressive Soviet Union (under Stalin’s control), but also he interrupts the film that his wife is producing in order to lecture the nonplussed director on the banality of blood, insisting that they should not have a shotgun in the film’s final sequence. Both the character and his creator are spiritedly idealistic, even in the face of cruel animosity. They indeed hope for a better tomorrow. This message of idealism is heartwarming, even if a little old-fashioned and trite. In other words, this is a cheesy yet surprisingly affecting film.
A, Brighter Tomorrow has just premiered in the Official Competition of the 76th Cannes Film Festival.