Movies and TV are a brilliant way to learn a language so we are once again sharing out recommendations for our Language of the Month, which this January is Italian. Before you get started, although it’s tempting to get your popcorn out and watch from start to finish, if you want to learn from it, we have some tips.
Italian cinema, is worldly renowned for the Neorealism that portrayed the worries and dramas of the war and the post-war period: masterpieces like La terra trema (Luchino Visconti, 1943) Roma cittá aperta (Roberto Rossellini, 1945) Sciusiciá e Ladri di biciclette (Vittorio De Sica, 1946, 1948) Riso amaro (Giuseppe De Santis, 1949) Cronaca di un amore (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1950) I Vitelloni e La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1953, 1954)
In recent years, Italian cinema has produced some isolated masterpieces that have also won significant prizes, such as the Oscar at the Best Foreign movie. Here are our top recommendations:
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1990) the film’s story is about a fictional Italian filmmaker Salvatore (Totò) Di Vita, who undertakes a journey of self-discovery while visiting his Sicilian hometown, Giancaldo to attend his mentor and friend’s funeral. During the visit he remembers his two loves; a girl that he lost years ago and cinema.
Mediterraneo (Gabriele Salvatores, 1992) during World War II, an Italian ship leaves a handful of soldiers on a little Greek island; their mission is to spot enemy ships and to hold the island in case of attack. The village of the island seems abandoned and there isn’t a single enemy in sight, so the soldiers begin to relax. Things change when their ship is hit and destroyed by the enemy, and the soldiers find themselves abandoned there. Actually, the island isn’t deserted and when the Greeks understand that those Italians are harmless, they come out of their hiding places in the mountains and continue their peaceful lives. Soon the soldiers discover that being left behind in a God-forgotten Greek island isn’t such a bad thing, after all.
La vita è bella (Roberto Benigni, 1999) in 1930s Italy, a carefree Jewish book keeper named Guido starts a fairy tale life by courting and marrying a lovely woman from a nearby city. Guido and his wife have a son and live happily together until the occupation of Italy by German forces. In an attempt to hold his family together and help his son survive the horrors of a Jewish concentration camp, Guido imagines that the Holocaust is a game and that the grand prize for winning is a tank.
La grande bellezza (Paolo Sorrentino, 2014) journalist Jep Gambardella has charmed and seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades. Since the legendary success of his one and only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city’s literary and social circles, but when his sixty-fifth birthday coincides with a shock from the past, Jep finds himself unexpectedly taking stock of his life, turning his cutting wit on himself and his contemporaries, and looking past the extravagant nightclubs, parties, and cafés to find Rome in all its glory: a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty.
Among contemporary Italian directors, Carlo Verdone, stands out for portraying Italian society at its best. Verdone started his career in television in the ‘70s, presenting different comic characters. In 1980 he made his debut as a director with the movie Un sacco bello, in which he played three roles, in three episodes joined together. He used the same formula as director and multi-role starring, in 1981 Bianco, rosso e Verdone, a comedy about three different men during Election Day in Italy.
The Election Day is the background to mock the miseries and hardships of Italian society, especially in the emigrant’s misfortunes. The obsessive, pedantic Furio character often falls in Verdone’s works, telling to be inspired by one’s of his relatives. Pasquale’s dated character stereotypes the helpless Italian emigrant, emphasized by his untidy and old fashioned wear, garish car decoration, listening of Italian ’50s music. Half-witted Mimmo who travels with his diabetic grandmother is a continuum of Leo, shy and awkward character of Un sacco bello.
Why don’t you watch Bianco, rosso e Verdone, after preparing a Caprese salad, which is made with food of the same colours mentioned in the movie title? Also the colours of the Italian flag.
TV series recommendations
Il commissario Montalbano is an Italian police procedural television series, based on the detective novels of Andrea Camilleri. The protagonist is commissario Montalbano, who is in charge of the state police station in station in Vigàta, a fictional town in the fictional province of Montelusa, near Ragusa, in Sicily. Montalbano investigates criminal acts which he always manages to solve by reconstruction thanks to his intelligence and the help of his team.
L’amica geniale is an Italian and Neapolitan language coming-of-age drama television series, named after the first of four novels in the Neapolitan Novels series by Elena Ferrante. It is set to adapt the entire literary work over four eight-episode seasons. The series follows the lives of two perceptive and intelligent girls, Elena (“Lenù”) Greco and Raffaella (“Lila”) Cerullo, from childhood to adulthood and old age, as they try to create lives for themselves amidst the violent and stultifying culture of their home – a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples.