Caro Diario (1993)

NANNI MORETTI

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB

Alternate Title: Dear Diary

/, 1993. , , , , . Screenplay by Nanni Moretti. Cinematography by . Produced by , , Nanni Moretti. Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

It’s quite possible that this film is writer-director-star Nanni Moretti‘s masterpiece, a semi-autobiographical work whose look inwards is deeply funny and charming, never indulgent or trite.

He divides the experience into three parts that are all narrated from his diary entries, in the first section enjoying his days driving through Rome on his Vespa and noting his feelings about all the neighbourhoods he witnesses being gentrified. It’s late in the summer and the city is empty of traffic and crowds, meaning that Moretti’s musings on cinema, inspiration and expression are accompanied by gorgeous long shots of him taking over wide open roads, with the caprice of a delightful celebrity cameo by , accompanied by then-husband , thanks to Moretti’s love of Flashdance.

In the second chapter, Moretti travels to the island of Lipari to get some writing done and meets up with old friend and scholar , but the island has become pure urban distraction, so they head on a tour of the Aeolian Islands that sees them experiencing something strange at every stop: Salina is overruled with parents who are obsessed with talking about their children (and children who dominate the phone), Panarea is hosting the obnoxiously quirky “festival of bad taste”, the volcanic island of Stromboli is populated with unwelcoming citizens who don’t provide them a place to stay, and their final destination, Alicudi, has no electricity, something difficult for Carpentieri, who has recently discovered soap operas (the scene where Moretti runs down a volcano to ask American tourists to get them caught up on the plotlines of Bold and the Beautiful might be the funniest in the whole movie, though that’s a tough contest).

Things turn somewhat sober in the last third, but no charm is lost as Moretti tells the tale of his own personal health journey, relating his experience investigating a mysterious itchiness that no doctor can solve until he is eventually diagnosed with Hodgkins’ Lymphoma (I’m not giving anything away, he mentions it at the top of the section).

Always brilliantly underplaying the film’s funniest scenes, Moretti’s handsome figure and good-natured presence immediately draw our affection and concern, it’s hilarious to watch him try to enjoy Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, or be moved to dance in a café where Silvana Mangano’s famous scene from Anna is playing on television, and it’s touching to see him carry himself with humour and courage through a genuine health scare.

Beautifully photographed and with a masterful sense of controlled pacing over every sequence, this is a bounty of delights that should be the first stop for anyone looking to discover the work of the deservedly acclaimed Italian auteur.

Cannes Film Festival Award: Best Director (Nanni Moretti)

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