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February 10, 2009

Luce dei miei occhi

Luce_occhi Sometime in the past year or so, I lost interest in American movies. I don't mean in the sense that some people say they don't have a television -- I mean that with a few exceptions I have no interest in seeing the stuff being released and advertised. (Peter Suderman offers a few reasons why I and others like me may feel this way.)

Take the Oscars, please: Apart from Slumdog Millionaire, I have no desire to see any of the nominated films and, what's more, I suspect that this is okay by the filmmakers since their films seem to have been made for other directors, actors, etc, and not the movie-going public.

So-called "indies" are better but not by much: many of them are so self-conscious, so assured of their artistic rectitude that it's difficult to actually enjoy watching them. Those, like Juno, that aren't insufferable, tend to be wildly over-praised. I liked Juno but not nearly as much as I did Expiration Date, a quirky and endearing film about a Native American whose grandfather and father were both killed by milk trucks on their twenty-fifth birthdays and the manic pixie dream girl who "won't let him die in peace." It's got everything: comedy, Dee Wallace in her most disturbing role since The Frighteners, and the greatest hoop dancer of his generation.

So if Hollywood and Park City aren't doing it for me, that leaves the rest of the world. For example, the 2001 Italian film Light of My Eyes (Luce dei miei occhi), starring Luigi Lo Cascio, who played Nicola in The Best of Youth (La Meglio gioventù), about which I can't write/say enough good things, and Sandra Ceccarelli

As a commenter at IMDb put it, Luce is a story about

a lonely [limousine] driver [Antonio] who is a true gentleman with honorable intentions, that falls for a single mother [Maria] (of a young daughter) who remains coldly indifferent to his love and commendable contributions. She runs a frozen food store and he eventually learns that she is heavily in debt to some loan shark, so he decides to help with payments without her knowledge. He goes to extreme lengths to help her by also striking some deal in chauffeuring her creditor. In the movie, he narrates his experiences by modeling similarities to the themes of non related events in some Science fiction novels, which are his other passion and . . . he feels like an alien from another planet without any sense of belonging.

While Maria doesn't reciprocate Antonio's love, she constantly broadcasts her neediness and presumes on his love and, more to the point, his "commendable contributions," until even Antonio can take no more. She's not a bad person by any means -- she's just the kind of person for whom there's always another wound to discover. 

If you check out the comments at IMDb, you'll see that the ending of Luce didn't sit well with some people: one of them even compared it to the revised "happy" ending Dickens tacked onto Great Expectations. While I wouldn't go that far, I can see the point: in real life, Pip and Antonio move on and Estella and Maria are fortunate if suffering eventually gives them "a heart to understand what [Pip's and Antonio's] heart used to be.”

Or as Susan Ivanova told Stephen Franklin: "All love is unrequited, Stephen, all of it."

Okay, maybe not all, but enough so that you ought to wonder why we've made emotions that can, without a hint of irony or protest, be compared to "sparks flying in the dark," the basis for the primary and most important human institution

Still, the ending of Luce works (at least for me) because it brings to mind the one lover who does not move on. This lover is not offended or put off by our responding only after our cold indifference leaves with nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to.

I'm referring of course to God. I have no reason to believe that Giuseppi Piccioni ever thought of his film as a religious allegory, but I could not help but see the parallels: Antonio's willingness to help without Maria's knowledge reminded me of grace and, yes, the way we take grace for granted. Maria's self-loathing and despair which, instead of leading her to embrace a chance at La Vita Nuova, caused her to reject it and do her best to drive it away is an experience that I am all too familiar with.

Or you could watch He's Just Not That Into You, instead.

(Image © Film Movement)

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Rachel Coleman

No, I want to watch the movies you talk about instead.
I'm just not into the other junk.

Gina Dalfonzo

Or we could watch that other junky-looking chick flick that's coming out, "Confessions of a Shopaholic." Unwomanly it may be in me, but every time they show the commercial where the ditzy girl pulls her credit card out of the ice and screeches, I want to vomit.

Kim Moreland

Call me a grump (or someone who has a stomach ailment), but most movie advertisments make me want to vomit.

Diane Singer

I'm with you, Roberto. Aside from "Slumdog Millionaire," nothing on this year's list of Oscar nominees interests me. Thanks for the recommendation for "Light of My Eyes." I just moved it to the #1 position in my Netflix queue.

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