Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Neglected Gem #20: Facing Windows (2003)

It’s a funny thing about movies. They may get critical acclaim, even score some box office success and years later they’re barely mentioned by anyone or even remembered. And there’s often no discernible reason for their fates. I really can’t tell why Neil Jordan’s terrific and accessible heist movie The Good Thief, which got good reviews when it came out in 2002, has pretty much vanished into the ether. Or why Steve Jordan’s powerful documentary Stevie (2002)  failed to match the impact of his earlier 1994 doc Hoop Dreams. Or even why impressive debuts like Jeff Lipsky’s Childhood’s End didn’t get half the buzz that considerably lesser movies (Wendy and LucyBallast) have acquired upon their subsequent release. In any case, here is the latest entry in a series of disparate movies you really ought to see.

 Massimo Girotti and Giovanna Mezzogiorno in Facing Windows
Memory and reality collide in the evocative Facing Windows. Long married to her childhood sweetheart Filippo (Filippo Nigro), Giovanna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), an Italian mother of two, lives a life of stress and quiet dissatisfaction. When her kind-hearted husband insists on bringing home an amnesiac elderly man he's encountered in the street (Massimo Girotti), her unhappiness rises to the fore. But the revelation of who the old man is, one tied into Italian actions during World War Two, will end up changing her forever.

Skillfully juxtaposing Giovanna's situation with that of the old man, Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek (Hamam-The Steam Bath) ably creates an allusive and provocative world of thwarted desires and devastating secrets, underlaid with maximum emotional effect. As Giovanna, the beautiful, steely Mezzogiorno is superb--a worthy successor to the great Italian actresses like Anna Magnini, whose forcefulness lit up the screen. Though the movie's two threads never quite mesh, Facing Windows always fascinates. Filtered through the unsparing prism of history, it's a unique and powerful portrait of a marriage.
Shlomo Schwartzberg is a film critic, teacher and arts journalist based in Toronto . He teaches regular courses at Ryerson University 's LIFE Institute, where he will be teaching a course on film censorship in the fall.

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