Remember Me, My Love (Ricordati di me): Gabriele Muccino's latest Italian film is
a cruel observation of popular culture and society. This tale is a story of love ...
Remember Me, My Love (Ricordati di me): Gabriele Muccino’s latest Italian film is a cruel observation of popular culture and society. This tale is a story of love lost and what might have been (for the adults) against the backdrop of teenagers coming of age in this modern world. It is sad. It is sweet. It is wise. As one of the characters says, “Art is like love. It is always hungry.” The film is as much an indictment at modern popular culture obsessed with individualism, as it is a close look at the dissolution of the nuclear family. Carlo Ristuccia, played by Fabrizio Bentivoglio, is the restless and bored head of the family. His wife Giulia, played by Laura Morante, is its fire-breathing matriarch. She will stop at nothing to keep her family intact although it’s unraveling before her eyes. She sees her life as a failure yet plays the role of reconciler of the family. Bentivoglio, at the center of the movie, is in a mid-life crisis. He hates his job, he despises his “castrating” wife and he wants to finish writing the book he started long ago. When Bentivoglio meets an ex flame Alessia (Monica Bellucci) at a party, his long, lost passions for her rekindle and sends him into a tailspin. She is the voluptuous and idyllic siren. Even though the movie is about the Ristuccia family, Bellucci is the heart and soul of the movie. Her affair with Bentivoglio gives the movie its most poignant moments. There is only coldness in the Ristuccia family. In many ways, I think this film plays like a modern day version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” albeit without Clarence the angel. The characters are well cast, with a high spectrum of character development. We know what makes them tick. I found their teenage daughter Valentina, played by Nicoletta Romanoff, in her first feature film, remarkable as the superficial, star-seeking, self-centered brat. She’ll do anything to get a part on a cheap dance show. Her obsession with herself strikes a dramatic chord. Her constant pampering of herself permeates the lives of all four. In one dramatic scene, as Morante is frantically trying to get her husband back, Romanoff is only concerned with her mother making dinner for her. Paolo (Silvio Muccino) her younger, somewhat nerdy brother is looking unsuccessfully for peer acceptance. Paolo arranges a party for his so-called friends, but they run out on him when all the drugs are gone. They have illusions of grandeur. Romanoff wants to be a movie star and Silvio Muccino wants to be a hot ladies man. Indeed, each of the Ristuccia family members is looking for self gratification and self expression. Only a near-tragic accident brings them back together as a family. In many ways, I think this film plays like a modern day version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” albeit without Clarence the angel. The characters are well cast, with a high spectrum of character development. We know what makes them tick. This is Muccino’s follow-up to his successful 2001 film, “The Last Kiss.” “The Last Kiss,” showed much promise in an Italian film industry stuck in an endless malaise of coming-of-age movies in trying to duplicate the universal appeal of “Cinema Paradiso” in 1990. There is much to like in this film too. The cinematography by Marcello Montarsi is noteworthy. The camera swirls around the characters, seemingly chasing them from behind as though they are running away from things in their lives. The close-ups are well framed. I found the solemn story full of real people, and believable situations, peopled with shallow characters. It does have its share of comedic moments. I think it is interesting that Muccino uses an Italian family in dissecting popular culture. Italian families and culture have been stereotyped as being very close and tight. The film is beautifully scripted, wonderfully acted and has universal appeal. Other than Bellucci, none of the characters are very likeable. Perhaps director Muccino is playing with us, as his intent could be that he does not want us to care about these individuals because all they care about is themselves. When a family crisis brings them together, the question is, “Are they really a family unit again?”
While the film has many human elements, there is a sense of coldness and aloofness throughout. I found it interesting that the theater director in the film says, “The superficial tells you more about a person than we realize.” Reminiscent of the irony in the title of another Italian film “La Dolce Vita,” (“The Sweet Life”) contrasted with its actual content, the title of this film translates simply into “Remember Me” rather than the superfluously added “My Love.” It isn’t about love at all. The film intertwines the themes of sex and love. In fact, one of the characters says, “Sex is easy, love is hard.” This concept plays itself out by the characters in the film. In many ways, I think the film is about the insanity of the human condition, especially in wanting what we don’t have. Or, as one of the character’s in the film says, “Those who are born in life to take, give. Those who are born in life to give, take. That is why we are so unhappy.” This film can be condensed by the phrase Giulia Ristuccia tells the theater director in the movie, “All I ever wanted in life is someone to believe in me.” 125 Minutes In Italian with English subtitles MPAA Rating: No Rating RATING: B+ Copyright © 2004 Ezio Manzin November 15, 2004