New Yorker Films // 2006 // 110 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // February 2nd, 2009
It's the dead who command in Italy.
Whoever decided to bill The Wedding Director as a comedy for its North American release clearly doesn't understand the film. I'm not sure I understand it either, and it does have a few funny scenes, but there's no question in my mind that the attempt to slot The Wedding Director into any genre would be doing it a great disservice. It's a film like few others, an uncompromising postmodern journey into the nature of film and society.
The story, it seems, goes something like this: Franco Elica (Sergio Castellitto, Paris, Je T'aime) is a director whose daughter has just been married. He is working on the casting for a major film, but decides to slip away to Sicily when his assistant makes an inappropriate comment to a young actress, implicating Elica in a potentially nasty sex scandal. As he arrives in Sicily, he runs into The Prince (Sami Frey, Blood and Sand), whose own daughter (Donatella Finocchiaro, Secret Journey) is getting married. Elica is pushed into directing a video of the woman's wedding film, complicated when he falls quickly in love with her. From there, things spiral quickly out of reason.
Some of the greatest films of all time have been about filmmaking. What could filmmakers handle better, after all, or be more familiar with? Running beneath the main plot of The Wedding Director is a harsh portrayal of the Italian film industry, a savage satire that elicits more cringes than laughs. Elica meets a director who has faked his own death in order to finally win some awards, realizing that it's only through death that he has any chance of experience his own glory. There is also the irony that such a great director would be reduced to making a simple wedding video. Wedding videos are the paint-by-numbers of the film world, though the suggestion is here that many of the most popular films are now directed with the same level of craft of a wedding video. If that's true, some of the greatest cinematic artists in the world are now turning to lesser forms in order to make a living.
This is a strong message for a director to make, and a dangerous one. Thankfully, Marco Bellocchio (The Nanny) is highly skilled, and brings his vision to life with creativity and a hearty dose of ambiguity. The Wedding Director is postmodern in the same way that Adaptation is postmodern, sporting a plot that folds in on itself several times, leaving us to sweep up the sequences and try to fit them together into something that makes sense. The performances and plot here are strong enough that we don't need to make sense of it all in order to appreciate and enjoy the film, but more persistent viewers will enjoy trying to puzzle out each moment of the twisted narrative.
I don't want to say much more here, because it's a film that should be seen as cold as possible. I went in expecting yet another arthouse romantic comedy, and came away very pleasantly surprised. The first few sequences were confusing for me, because the film is shot more like a mystery than a comedy, but this truly is a film that defies conventional description. It's a puzzle with no guide -- a series of pieces with no clear place to put each one. Adventurous viewers will embrace the attention and effort required to watch the film, a rarity in contemporary film.
I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the DVD. I suspect that The Wedding Director looked fantastic on film, featuring a rich color palette and a variety of filming styles. This DVD transfer comes from a PAL master, and it shows in the judder associated with a flawed transfer. The sound is much better, a 5.1 track with clear dialogue and several scenes with vibrant use of the surrounds. The only special feature on the disc is a brief featurette, but it's just a collection of footage from the filming.
Reservations about the disc aside, The Wedding Director is still well worth a spin for fans of foreign film. It's a unique and uncompromising film that has a lot to say but isn't afraid to beat around the bush, creating a true work of art in the process.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Yorker Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Italian)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated