Festival

At the center of this sleek, unsentimental drama, which contains many more references and self-references than I could recognize, is has-been comedian Franco Melis (Massimo Boldi), who was long ago acquitted of a criminal charge but hasn't been forgiven by the public. He's the lead in a serious feature that's in competition at the Venice film festival and is ambivalent about attending, but he goes—with a tiny entourage, including a hanger-on (Isabelle Pasco) who sets about making better connnections as soon as they get there. Melis and a festival judge (Alberto di Stasio) share a complicated past, and both men are expressive in acknowledging the awkwardness of their relationship; one of the most moving scenes involves the two sneaking glances at each other during a screening. A son, from whose mother Melis is estranged, avidly follows news reports about his father's chances of being selected best actor. Melis's often humiliating experiences are depicted with conviction and generosity, and though highly manipulative, the story is a satisfying rendition of an event whose hype it both perpetuates and explodes. Directed by Pupi Avati, who wrote the screenplay with Antonio Avati, Giorgio Gosetti, Doriano Fasoli, and Nino Marino.

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