Marco Bellocchio has rejuvenated his career and his world-class reputation in recent years with a series of visually classical yet thematically absurdist moralist parables. The feisty 68-year-old Italian tackled Catholicism with "My Mother's Smile" in 2002, and revisited the Red Brigade's assassination of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro with "Good Morning, Night" in 2003. Next to these projects, his 2006 film "The Wedding Director," which begins a one-week engagement at the Museum of Modern Art tomorrow, seems like a lighthearted change of pace.
Sergio Castellitto stars as Franco Elica, a hotshot filmmaker who has received an offer from a Sicilian royal that he can't refuse. The Prince of Gravina (Sami Frey) needs a videographer to capture the wedding of his daughter Bona (Donatella Finocchiaro). Instantly smitten with the enigmatic princess, Franco is all too willing to accept the job with the intent of ultimately sabotaging the wedding.
It's not a stretch to call "The Wedding Director" a romantic comedy, but look elsewhere if you just want to giggle at wedding crashers, wedding singers, maids of honor, 27 dresses, or one big, fat, ethnic family. Mr. Bellocchio is using the nuptial context to satirize the dirty business of make-believe, as Robert Altman did with Hollywood and "The Player." "The Wedding Director" is a meta-film so hyper-cinematic and stylized that sometimes it has no bearing in reality. It takes place in a postcard, mythical Sicily, which is stunningly photographed by Pasquale Mari. Franco forfeits all rational thought and completely submits to impulse and cinematic quotations — what would Visconti do? With every encounter, Franco reflexively sets the scene and cues the music inside his own head. He also shares "Volver" moments with fellow filmmaker Orazio Smamma (Gianni Cavina), who has faked his own death in a desperate attempt to sweep the Donatello Awards and only appears at night to Franco, spitting vitriolic diatribes about the current state of filmmaking.
"The Wedding Director" is bitingly funny, but its sense of humor may be lost on many moviegoers. The film is so deadpan that it often plays out like a conventional thriller, especially when one considers subtitles and the ambiguous conclusion. But for those who are in on the joke, there's a great deal of free-for-all nuttiness to enjoy. And, as always, Mr. Bellocchio is on point with his keen insights about the insular filmmaking culture losing touch with reality to the point that its products are littler more than poor imitations of life.
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