For Beginners translates well
we been focus-grouped till hell won't have it? Aren't we wary
of poll-taking disguised as public policy? Tired of vanilla
radio and identical shopping malls in towns and cities across
the land? Bored with laugh-tracked TV and the same, lame rehashed
it Dogma-style: no makeup or artificial lighting gives "Italian
For Beginners" an earthy, true-to-life appeal.
Hollywood, according to an old joke, owns one
typewriter and 2,000 copy machines.
If true, a collection of filmmakers named Dogma
95 is determined to undermine the problem. And Dogma-style filmmaking
is gaining a reputation as the "Unplugged" of the
This year's model is "Italian For Beginners"
a sprightly comedy most notable for what it does without.
No music swells up to telegraph emotion, there are no elaborate
sets and props, no porcelain-skinned actors and actresses.
What it does have is blemished faces and characters
that are true to life. The woman who works at the bakery is
born clumsy, the novice preacher is earnest but awkward and
the bartender is a dick.
You quickly get used to the gritty locations,
lack of makeup, natural lighting and handheld camera
and the movie takes on a realistic, earthy stripe. By movie's
end you realize that, at least for longer than usual, these
characters just might stick to your bones.
95 began as a 1995 collective of filmmakers that met in
Copenhagen and vowed to try to strip crass formula from what
we see in movie theaters. The movement's godfather, Lars von
Trier, has "Breaking the Waves" and "Dancer
in the Dark" to his credit.
location, location: Dogma-style means no sets or props.
So maybe I'm not a movie guy. I usually walk away
at least a little disappointed too predictable, not enough
imagination, unrealistic, style over substance to the limit.
Usually, I would've rather stayed home.
But while director Lone Schefrig's "Italian
For Beginners" is not a great movie, it doesn't seem to
strive for greatness. It just wants to be really good, and that's
a large part of its appeal.
Essentially, it's a character study of three different
kinds of love as experienced by six inner-city singles as they
navigate believable measures of coincidence and everyday life.
They meet at night class in effort to learn a little Italian;
the story climaxes with a field trip to Venice.
Deeper still, the story hints at the easy-to-grasp
but difficult-to-realize notion that the journey is the
a field trip to Venice, the journey is the destination.
"It's very funny, poignant and deceptively
simple," said an actor-friend by way of recommendation.
"It's kind of inspiring, too. You walk out thinking 'I
could do that.' Although it's the sitting down and doing that's
still the trick."
And that's getting closer to the point: Someday
soon such a movie will pop out and it will be great.
Then, not unlike the current scenario where home recording and
file-sharing threaten to send recording companies the way of
the buffalo, maybe the movie moguls will start to sweat
if they're not sweating already.
"Italian For Beginners" has been lingering
in theaters and comes out in home-viewing formats this month.
As the clock ticks, Hollywood might be wise to find a few different