"This is a caricature, and often a very funny one, but equally Moretti is simply irritating to watch and listen to for much of the film." | Photo: Studiocanal

Aprile is Nanni Moretti’s semi-autobiographical look at political life in Italy in the mid 90s, and the perils of filmmaking. It is very much in the mode of his earlier Dear Diary, though the charm is less winning in this follow-up.

The film begins with the election of infamous media mogul, AC Milan-owning, Bunga-Bunga-loving Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister. More than 20 years later, the revulsion Moretti’s character (also called Nanni Moretti) feels at the rise to power of a right-wing populist feels like an eerie foreshadowing of global politics in the contemporary moment.

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Moretti shelves plans for his new film – a musical about a pastry chef in Fifties Rome – to focus on a state-of-the-nation documentary about Italy under Berlusconi. Indeed, there is certainly something of a wish fulfilment when Moretti, as the fictional director, wanders morosely off set on the first day of shooting his musical to very few complaints from the crew or his producer.

The film cleverly explores the filmmaker’s dilemma in this moment, between his sense of civic duty as an artist, in that place and that time, to chronicle what he sees as the eroding of public decency all around him, and the pure, adrenaline-fueled, joy-inducing escapism of the musical.

However, the film, as Moretti’s diary, is inevitably bound up with our relationship to him and, frankly, he isn’t a lot of fun to be around. This is a caricature, and often a very funny one, but equally Moretti is simply irritating to watch and listen to for much of the film. As his wife tries to talk to him about the stages of birthing their first, imminently arriving, child, Moretti paces the balcony, marvelling about how light their telephone is, and its design qualities, which his wife patiently and earnestly returns him to the point at hand. Sometimes the naval-gazing eccentricities are more enjoyable, such as when Moretti expertly summarises the plot of Heat to his mother on the phone, while his wife interjects about the handsomeness of Al Pacino.

There are moments of visual delight, in what otherwise often feels like a fly on the wall documentary, such as when Moretti attempts to film a protest only to be met with rain and a vista of umbrellas crowding the image; or when Moretti, in his attempts to understand the power of press coverage, composes an enormous newspaper out of years of newspaper and magazine clippings. The film, then, is an attempt from Moretti to understand his craft, his country and, most importantly, his own relationship to those two things. And, in absurdly comic fashion, he ends up back where he started: on the set of his musical, bobbing along to the music with the rest of the cast and crew. Que Sera, Sera and all that.

Reviewed on: 23 Nov 2020
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A documentary that is more about the documentary-maker than its subject.
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Angus Wolfe Murray **

Director: Nanni Moretti

Writer: Nanni Moretti

Starring: Nanni Moretti, Silvio Orlando, Silvia Nono, Pietro Moretti

Year: 1998

Runtime: 78 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Italy


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