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Nanni Moretti Il sol dell’avvenire Review

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Il sol dell’avvenire (A Brighter Tomorrow) | 2023 Cannes Film Festival Review

Il sol dell’avvenire (A Brighter Tomorrow) | 2023 Cannes Film Festival Review

If You Don’t Die Today: Moretti Can’t Find the Rhythm in Musical Delusion

Nanni Moretti Il sol dell’avvenire ReviewTo say the latest film from Nanni Moretti, Il sol dell’avvenire (A Brighter Tomorrow), is both mawkish and antiquated (usually referred to in euphemism as ‘old fashioned’) would be an understatement in attempting to capture how gratingly oblivious it is in mistaking obnoxiousness for charm. As per usual, Moretti headlines the film himself for the first time in years, playing a film director who is visited with both familial and professional crisis while commencing on his latest project. The period piece within the film deals with the Soviet Union invading Hungary while a traveling circus from Budapest in Italy goes on strike in solidarity. The Italian communist characters are torn, feeling they cannot support the actions of their Soviet comrades, and so decide they are practicing their own communism by taking a stand with their Hungarian guests.

Seemingly, this is meant to parallel Moretti as a filmmaker, railing against another film production from a younger generation which gleefully exploits violence. Just like his film characters aren’t those kind of communists, Moretti, by proxy, isn’t that kind of a director. The narrative mechanisms are interesting, and the classic foibles of a filmmaker besotted by various production issues certainly primes the set-up well enough. But it’s Moretti himself, bludgeoning his punch lines like a burdensome grandpa who still controls everything because he holds the purse strings, who proves ultimately to be the ruinous element in his latest project.

Having not made a film for the past five years, Giovanni (Moretti) is anxious to begin production on his new project, which deals with a traveling circus requiring a lot of moving parts. For the first time, his daughter (Valentina Romani) will work with him, scoring the film. His wife Paolo (Margherita Buy), who has produced all his films, is a bit distracted because she’s simultaneously producing someone else’s project, a violent action movie. Jealous of his wife’s other interests, Giovanni doesn’t realize she’s been planning to leave him for some time. As production begins m, it appears the financier, Pierre (Mathieu Amalric), was merely a super fan of Giovanni’s, and didn’t have the actual funds required, thus production grinds to a halt, leaving Giovanni to scramble for a solution.

Moretti, one of Italy’s most celebrated contemporary Italian auteurs, at least locally, has fashioned himself as something of staple in his films. With his distinctive speech pattern and droll persona, he’s nearly always playing the same ‘type’ of person, his latest being no exception. A Brighter Tomorrow is something of the sister version of 2015’s Mia Madre, in which she starred as a director making a film during an existential crisis with Moretti is a supporting player…also named Giovanni. Whether in an effort to keep everything ‘light’ and ‘amusing,’ or because Moretti didn’t want to make room for a spectrum of authentic human emotion, none of these family matters ring true. The customarily compelling Margherita Buy is backed into a corner; she can shake her head and yet still marvel at her husband’s ‘cute’ behaviors. Meanwhile, she rented a flat a while ago in anticipation for her exit from the marriage. Giovanni’s obliviousness is at the height of caricature, which Moretti probably thinks is believable because it would explain the presentation of the entire film.

Nanni Moretti Il sol dell’avvenire Review
A subplot involving his twenty something daughter dating the Polish ambassador, a pairing which is so over-the-top it feels like a fairy tale where an ogre swindles young maidens from peasants, is meant to convey Giovanni’s gentle side with his daughter. These elements go nowhere, likewise an equally off-putting Mathieu Amalric as a fawning entrepreneur who actually doesn’t have the finances to complete the film. Netflix ends up being the butt of an incredibly lazy joke as a possible means to save the day, initially. For whatever reason, the Koreans who co-produced the other project Paola is working on, swoop in to save the day based on the power of his script. Though whatever they read isn’t seen in A Brighter Tomorrow.

Nanni Moretti Il sol dell’avvenire Review
Perhaps the most egregiously insipid scene follows Giovanni interrupting the shooting of the final scene in his wife’s other project. He halts a sequence wherein a man is about to shoot another character point blank in the head, making an argument for how kids these days don’t understand violence requires the requisite weight to convey an appropriate reaction. Anything else is technically dangerous and exploitive. There’s certainly a point to what he’s saying, but then the film would have us believe he holds up the entire production the whole night in existential conversation, this being the straw that broke the camel’s back for Paola. Only one scene earlier they were bopping to Aretha Franklin in the car.

Clearly Moretti is himself a major cinephile, and the various references to other fantastic films suggest he’d be more amusing to chat with than some of his own films are to watch. References to Arthur Penn’s The Chase, Demy’s Lola, etc., don’t quite enrich this film other than remind us of something else we’d like to disappear into. Moretti works hard to capture a sense of the musical effervescence from Demy, and there are several fantastical asides (including the closing moments, when a variety of notable Italian entertainment industry players pop up from the Moretti lexicon) where everyone breaks into song and/or dance. These moments are arduous to sit through, partially because they aren’t properly reflective of any emotional interiority within the film, but mostly because they’re unforgivably schmaltzy.

Reviewed on May 24th at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival – Competition. 96 Mins.

½/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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