Italian for Beginners | Chicago Reader

Italian for Beginners

Like Jacques Rivette's Va savoir, this 2000 Danish feature by Lone Scherfig is a multicharacter film that strives to reinvent the screwball tradition. Unlike Rivette, who turned out a nuanced and often moving meditation on film and theater, Scherfig falls back on one-dimensional characters whose eccentricities, while initially diverting, soon become tiresome. Still, this ultimately toothless farce, with its Dogma 95 imprimatur, is not without its charms. The frequently clueless principals—an inept but alluring bakery clerk and the widowed pastor who courts her are among the most endearing—find a modicum of happiness in studying Italian, driving home the point that northern Europeans both romanticize and patronize the Mediterranean south. Scherfig also manages to elicit excellent performances from a talented cast, particularly from Anders Berthelsen as the young pastor and Anette Stovelbaek as his klutzy paramour. In Danish and Italian with subtitles. 118 min.

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