Saturday, June 01, 2024

Open Roads ’24: A Brighter Tomorrow

The Italian Communist Party (PCI) received direct financial support from the Soviet Union, so obviously they had no independence whatsoever. They refused to condemn the terrorism of the Red Army Faction and parroted Party propaganda demonizing democracy advocates during the Hungarian Revolution and the Czechoslovakian invasion. Inevitably, many prominent members broke from the Party in ’56 and ’68, but the PCI stayed loyal to its Soviet masters as an institution. The PCI’s massive hypocrisy is ripe for savage mockery, but that is absolutely not happening in Nanni Moretti’s A Brighter Tomorrow, which screens during this year’s Open Roads: New Italian Cinema.

As usual, Moretti plays a filmmaker not so different from himself. Giovanni yearns to make an Italian adaption of John Cheever’s “The Swimmer,” but his current film is a story of a neighborhood PCI club, who are hosting a Hungarian circus troupe, right as the Soviet tanks roll into Hungary.

Giovanni conceived his film as a musical, vaguely in an
Umbrellas of Cherbourg bag, using sentimental old Italian pop songs. He wants to evoke nostalgia for the glory days of PCI clubs, so Giovanni needs to somewhat whitewash the PCI’s history. As director of A Brighter Tomorrow, the real-life Moretti is clearly trying to rehabilitate the real-life PCI. Consequently, the film runs interference for Italian Communists on multiple meta-levels.

When not excusing away an oppressive ideology,
A Brighter Tomorrow engages in self-indulgently neurotic rom-com humor. This film should inspire fresh new respect for Woody Allen, because his angsty, nebbish, classic movie-loving, frustrated artist shtick is obviously harder than it looks.

A Brighter Tomorrow
had tremendous potential for satire, but Moretti openly engages in wish-fulfillment, creating a PCI rebellion against CCP orthodoxy that literally never happened. You have to wonder what the legendary Polish actor Jerzy Stuhr (who worked extensively with Krzysztof Kieslowski and Andrzej Wajda) really and truly thinks of Moretti’s final cut. In this film, Stuhr plays the Polish ambassador, who happens to be the much older boyfriend of Giovanni’s college student daughter Emma, so keep those Woody Allen comparisons coming.

Moretti’s smugly satisfied performance as a thesp does not do himself any favors as a director. By far, the best performance comes from Silvio Orlando, playing himself, playing conflicted neighborhood PCI boss Ennio Mastrogiovanni. However, Margherita Buy looks so tired playing Moretti’s wife, yet again, she should get the divorce her character is [justifiably] considering.

It is kind of amazing how
A Brighter Tomorrow can fail in so many ways and on so many levels. As a film, it is cloyingly precious, in ways that are profoundly dishonest. Not recommended, A Brighter Tomorrow screens today (6/1) and Wednesday (6/5), as part of Open Roads.