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December 23, 2008

The Wedding Director

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Il Regista di Matrimoni
Marco Bellochio - 2006
New Yorker Film Region 1 DVD

On a superficial level, one can liken The Wedding Director to Eight and a Half. Marco Bellochio's film is about the misadventures of a movie director, his troubled relationships with women, and his uncertain attempts in setting up his newest project. A relatively lighthearted break between the serious Good Morning, Night and a new film about Mussolini, Bellochio looks at the filmmaker as celebrity. The basic story is about a relatively well known director, visiting Sicily, who is blackmailed by the still influential, if impoverished, local prince, into filming the wedding of his daughter. Complications arise when the director, Franco, and the prince's daughter, Bona, fall in love.

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What is more interesting about The Wedding Director is not the story, but the events that take place incidental to the narrative. Early in the film, a television report is aired that a famous film director has died in a car accident. The tragedy spurs others in Italy's film industry to vote for the director to get a "David", the Italian equivalent to the Oscar. There is the comment that the dead rule in Italy, yet it takes very little to see that the history of art, not only film, is full of posthumous recognition of its practitioners. When Franco is discovered on the beach by a local filmmaker shooting a wedding video, Franco is pressed to share his ideas on how to make the video more interesting. While we hear the suggestions on the soundtrack, we see the imagined film - madcap running back and forth across the beach, the young couple making love with the bride undressed, the couple then leaving the beach to the dismay of the rest of the family - a combination of comedy and eroticism that the local filmmaker rejects. Franco is reputed to be preparing a new film based on the novel The Betrothed. Brief excerpts of what appear to be one of the earlier filmed versions of the novel are intercut into the action while Franco and Bona compare themselves to Manoni's characters.

Bellochio makes constant use of framing devices. Characters are frequently seen behind windows or glass doors. There are repetitions of rectangular patterns, on walls, floors and ceilings. Bellochio includes shot of people looking at viewfinders and video monitors. Ideas about love and life are received second hand from popular culture. The prince, manipulating people to consolidate his remaining power, like the title character he refers to, asks Franco to film the wedding like Visconti's The Leopard. "Temptation" and "Autumn Leaves" are among the songs on the soundtrack. In The Wedding Director, the chaos of life keeps interfering with lives imagined as movies.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 23, 2008 12:55 AM