It's been a while since I've seen a foreign film at the cinema. Sadly I never made it to see Javier Bardem in Biutiful and hadn't realised just how much I had missed it. You see, seeing a foreign language film at the cinema is an experience in itself. The crowd are foreign, their reactions less reserved, less quintessentially British and for a couple of hours, you are not in the UK, you are anywhere in the world.
Thanks to the fabulous people at my local Phoenix Cinema, I managed to swing free tickets to any of the films showing at their Italian film weekend spectacular and chose the one on the only evening I was free with no idea what the film was even about. So along I went to spend an evening in Italy...
I learned that there was a short film being shown before the feature, which was introduced by the charming young Italian director himself. The film set the mood brilliantly with craftily edited clips of interviews with elderly Italian folk talking about what cinema was like in the 50s and 60s - from the rats to the sleezy guys and the clouds of smoke above everyones heads.
Then came the main feature... which tells the story of Alberto - a man so set on providing for his highly neurotic wife Sylvia and their 8 year old son that he fakes being in a wheelchair to get the highly coveted transfer to Milan. But his plan goes horribly wrong when he stands to say goodbye to the Inspector.
So then he gets the bad news. Is he fired? No. Worse... What could be worse? he asks... and he is told. He is being transferred... to the South. THE HORROR!!!
His wife is horrified and refuses to submit herself or their poor son to the horrors of the South and so Alberto is sent off on his own, armed with a fire extinguisher (for the extreme heat) and a bullet proof vest. On his journey down, he is stopped by police for driving too slowly.
"Sorry," he says, "I'm going to the south."
"Oh," the police officer says sympathetically. "I have a brother in Kosovo, I understand."
Of course, when Alberto arrives he realises how much of his pre-conceived ideas are actually wrong and as he encounters the people of his new home, the cultural and linguistic clashes make for cinematic gold. One scene where the locals try to teach Alberto how to speak like them had me crying with laughter. "We don't just throw these vowels away, we recycle."
The comedy is genius, the characters were quirky and endearing and the plot was clever and honest. I haven't laughed so hard in ages and would recommend it to foreign film fans and newcomers alike.
Enjoy! (You will, trust me!)
4 out 5 FOBLES :)