Moretti blends humor with death in 'Mia Madre' Cannes film

Sat May 16, 2015 9:24am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

CANNES, France (Reuters) - With the lack of women filmmakers a hot topic at Cannes, Italy's Nanni Moretti has shown the semi-autobiographical "Mia Madre" (My Mother) about a female director whose mother is dying and own life is out of control.

In a brilliant blend of comedy and pathos, the competition film shown on Saturday draws on a small pool of actors and actresses including Margherita Buy as the director Margherita, Italian stage actress Giulia Lazzarini as the dying Ada and Beatrice Mancini as the director's teenaged daughter.

Moretti, who was inspired to make the film when his own mother died while he was directing a previous film, further personalizes this one by playing Margherita's brother.

American John Turturro ("Barton Fink") is a buffoon actor named Barry Huggins whose Italian is nowhere up to the task of starring in the fictitious film-within-a-film about labor protests at an Italian factory.

In the film's most hilarious scene, Huggins claims to have been hired by Stanley Kubrick and kept waiting in a hotel for weeks for a part he never played.

There's an extraordinary moment later when Huggins flubs his lines and shouts: “I want to get out of here and go back to reality.”

Cut immediately to the hospital where the dying Ada lies motionless in her sickbed, a more disturbing reality than anything the farcical Huggins can imagine.

Moretti, who won the festival's top Palme d'Or prize in 2001 for "La Stanza del Figlio" (The Son's Room), said after his competition film's warmly received media screening that he hadn't planned those shots to be consecutive but it came out that way in the edit.   Continued...

Director Nanni Moretti (R) and cast member Margherita Buy pose during a photocall for the film "Mia madre" (My Mother) in competition at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, May 16, 2015.       REUTERS/Eric Gaillard