Two Italian tales anchor foreign offerings at Filmfest in Aspen |

Two Italian tales anchor foreign offerings at Filmfest in Aspen

"Viva La Liberta," a comic drama about Italian politics, screens Monday in Aspen at the Isis Theater and tonight at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: ‘Human Capital,’ presented by Aspen Filmfest

When: Saturday, Sept. 27, noon

Where: Wheeler Opera House

What: ‘Viva La Liberta,’ presented by Aspen FIlmfest

When: Monday, Sept. 29, 2:45 p.m.

Where: Isis Theater

Also: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept, 27, at Crystal Theatre, Carbondale)

Tickets and more info:; http://www.aspenshowtix

A pair of smart Italian movies lead Aspen Filmfest’s foreign offerings in the upcoming days, both in their own way commenting on the country’s economic collapse and political foibles of recent years.

Acclaimed director Paolo Virzi’s “Human Capital,” screening Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Wheeler Opera House, is a masterful blend of whodunit noir and social commentary. Adapted from Stephen Amidon’s novel, which was set in Connecticut, it moves the action to a wealthy area near Milan.

The stylish film opens with a hit-and-run car accident. The fallout from it links two families: the ultra-rich Bernaschis, led by a heartless hedge-fund mogul father, and the middle-class Ossalas with a patriarch, Dino, who is an obsequious social climber. The teen children of each family are dating, and Dino uses the connection to buy into the Bernaschi’s hedge fund.

Its story plays out in four chapters, each told from a different character’s point of view, and each circling back to the night of the mysterious accident. With each recitation of the story, Virzi doles out new bits of information about the mystery. In the process, he crafts not only a sophisticated thriller, but a skewering portrait of the social divide between the 1 percent and the rest of us. The film’s title, after all, comes from the legal jargon for calculating the value of a human life.

A hit in Italy, the film won Italy’s Donatello Award for best film, and has been selected as Italy’s best foreign film entry for the Academy Awards.

“Viva La Liberta,” screening Monday, Sept. 29, at the Wheeler and Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale, sets its sights on Italian politics. At the outset, Enrico Oliveri, the leader of the country’s opposition party, disappears without a trace as an electoral defeat looms for his faction. His long-suffering assistant, a dour political operative played by Valerio Mastandrea, asks Oliveri’s wife if he may be hiding out with a friend.

“A politician has no friends,” she shoots back.

So the operative orchestrates a way to keep the public from learning that Oliveri is missing: replacing him with the politician with his identical twin. Both twins are played by Toni Servillo, best known to American audiences for his role in last year’s Academy Award-winning “The Great Beauty.”

The problem with the switch is that the twin is a mentally unstable loose canon.

“You’re putting the party in a madman’s hands,” Mrs. Oliveri warns.

He sings and recites haiku in staff meetings, but rather than amping up the screwball comedy from that point, “Viva La Liberta” shows the public and the press eating up the doppleganger’s irreverent — and at times brilliant — message. It’s like an Italian take on the 1993 Kevin Kline comedy “Dave,” but with a sharper satirical take on Berlusconi-style political dysfunction.

The movies are among the foreign films on FIlmfest’s “Global Visions” track, which began Friday, Sept. 26, with Spain’s “Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed” and continues Sunday, Sept. 28, with the French period piece “Marie’s Story,” Tuesday, Sept. 30, with “24 Days,” also from France, and the Irish “Life’s a Breeze.” The foreign track closes Wednesday, Oct. 1, with Germany’s “Beloved Sisters.”

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