Now that we know Netflix has exactly 76,897 micro genres to guide every person through its expansive film collection, it’s interesting to see which of the few genres pop up on your homepage and why. When I used to study French I had to watch at least one French film a week, which clogged my profile with nuanced French and foreign dramas. To this day “Foreign Films with a Strong Female Lead” remains my top personal genre. Well done, Netflix. But lately I’ve been trying to watch more Italian movies for the same reason I had previously watched French ones: as a form of studying. Unfortunately the Italian section is not as overbearing as the French. And while there are the Classic Fellini films (or there used to be, I think they took 8 1/2 down) and all the horror and heroic epoch remakes, there is a small trove of films from the 21st century that are beautifully poignant and visually fantastic. Here are five everyone should put on their lists to stream.
1. La Siciliana Ribelle, Marco Amenta (2008)
While perhaps the less popular of the two major recent mob films (the other one being Gomorrah by Matteo Garrone in 2008), I really enjoy this one for the badass, or rebel as the titles implies, protagonist, Rita. Based off the true story of Rita Atria, the film follows the life of a girl born in the mob in Balata and spends her life trying to avenge her father and brother for their murders. Much crying ensured.
2. Giorni e Nuvole, Silvio Soldini (2007)
Although I’ve never known the struggles of the modern day marriage (I’m only 22, thanks), this film about a couple fighting to get by and stay together after the husband gets laid off and tensions escalate still resonates somehow. It is shot in the beautiful city Genoa on the Northwestern coast of Italy, which is an added aesthetic treat. PLUS, the wife is an art historian that works in conservation, so basically she is my idol.
3. Caterina va in Città, Paolo Virzì (2003)
Okay, so maybe this is a movie about a 12 year old girl trying to find out who she really is in life. But more than that it tells a story of class prejudices. Sergio Castellitto plays Caterina’s dad, a man always desiring to belong to the intellectual “clique” of Roma but never succeeding. He is one of the most interesting and complex and pitiful characters I’ve ever seen. Bravo!
4. Videocracy, Erik Gandini (2009)
Okay. This one will make you mad. Doesn’t Berlusconi’s smiling face just piss you off already? It’s a documentary (mostly in English) about the interconnectedness and reciprocal relatioship of influence between the completely screwed up politics and television culture throughout Italy. Some of the shots and interviews Gandini acquired…I have no idea how. It’s a really disgusting component of the country, the exploitation of women and the control these men had over the media and pop culture.
5. La Pivellina, Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel (2009)
To end on a more uplifting note, La Pivellina is a film about a group of circus people take in a little girl that was abandoned at a park. Nothing crazy happens, and it may seem a little slow at points. But it’s heartwarming without being cheesy and shows a really unique perspective of life in trailers in Roma.