AGATHA AND THE STORM
The mature Agatha (Licia Maglietta) runs a bookshop, where a younger man, Nico (Claudio Santamaria) heeds her advice on books, and falls madly in love with her. Agatha is taken aback at first and a little shy, but soon she revels in the passions the affair unleashes. She even has an effect on lightbulbs and traffic lights. Her self-satisfied architect brother Gustavo (Emilio Solfrizzi) has a shock of his own when he learns his parents bought him from a poor 16 year old. Gustavo's real brother turns out to be travelling salesman Romeo (Giuseppe Battiston), whose womanising doesn't stop him loving his wife. While Gustavo neglects his work and seems destined for divorce, Romeo dreams of a trout farm with his newfound architect brother, while Agatha enjoys her electrified romance.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's a sweet film and lots of fun. Showered with nominations at Italy's David Di Donatello Awards, Agatha and The Storm opened the Italian Film Festival in Australia (October 2004) - its buoyant mood intended to give the event momentum. Aspiring to be Italy's answer to Like Water for Chocolate in the romantic magic realism stakes, Agatha begins promisingly, with a solid hour of character establishment, comedy, romance and well paced, cross-cutting storytelling.
The luminous Licia Maglietta, who graced Silvio Soldini's Bread and Tulips, is a wonderful creation, a warm, feminine, intelligent woman of mature age, but young enough to grasp at life and love if the right man - even if he's 13 years younger - comes along. She is surrounded by fascinating characters, like her assistant at the bookshop, her brother, and the young stranger who wooes her.
All the performances are excellent, delivered with zest and sincerity; and there are many fringe characters who populate the film's central story with a connection to it. Indeed, in the second half, this tends to become a burden, as Soldini struggles to find a coherent through line and to keep the pace. Some scenes could easily be cut without truncating the story, and some of the characters are superfluous. It loses traction.
But if economy is not his strong suit, characterisation is: Romeo, a larger than life figure in fashion-tragic garb, is as ironic as he's engaging and sad all at once. Gustavo is well studied as the man thrown into crisis by the revelation of his adoption, and all the bit players are full of recognisable people, from the dying mother with a secret, to the long-lost father, found living reclusively in a nearby acreage.
The film has an earthy, rustic mood drawn from its Genoan setting, the old town offering its historic façade as a textured backdrop. Apart from its meandering nature in the second half, the film's main weakness is its hesitation about Agata's magic realistic effect on lightbulbs and other appliances, like computers. This is the symbol of her passion, and it's treated more like a novelty instead of being worked into a metaphysical engine for our emotions. Neither this, nor her affair are given enough power to generate the feelings that are intended. The promised storm of the title turns out to be merely a squall. We are not sent swooning, and we should be.
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AGATHA AND THE STORM (M)
Agata e la tempesta
CAST: Licia Maglietta, Giuseppe Battiston, Emilio Solfrizzi Marina Massironi, Claudio Santamaria, Ann Eleonora Jorgensen, Giselda Volodi, Monica Nappo, Remo Remotti, Andrea Gussoni, Casrla Astolfi
PRODUCER: Roberto Ciccutto, Luigi Musini, Tiziani Soudani
DIRECTOR: Silvio Soldini
SCRIPT: Dorniana Leondeff, Francesco Piccolo, Silvio Soldini
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Arnaldo Catinari
EDITOR: Carlotta Cristiani
MUSIC: Giovanni Venosta
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paola Bizzarri
RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 13, 2005
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: May 11, 2005