Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nanni Moretti, Renato Carpentieri, Jennifer Beals, Alexandre Rockwell, Antonio Neiwiller, Giulio Base
Written by: Nanni Moretti
Directed by: Nanni Moretti
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Italian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 100
Date: 09/30/1994

Caro Diario (1994)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Diary Farming

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti is largely known for his partly funny, partly truthful movies about himself, and Caro Diario, which won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival, is perhaps the movie that represents him best. It consists of three segments having little to do with one another, except that Moretti writes in a diary during each.

In the first, he rides his Vespa around Rome during the summer when everyone is on vacation. He sees whatever movies are playing, including Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (which disgusts him so much, he imagines tormenting a film critic that gave it a good review), confesses his love for the movie Flashdance, and then miraculously runs into Jennifer Beals, and then visits the place where director Pier Paolo Pasolini was killed.

In the second, he takes a tour of the Aeolian Islands along with his friend Gerardo (Renato Carpentieri), seeking a quiet place to work. They consistently fail, although the scholarly Gerardo, who claims to have never watched TV in 30 years, watches soap operas for the first time and becomes addicted.

In the third, Moretti tries to cure a mysterious itching in his arms and feet; this one has some humor, as when he goes to the pharmacy to collect a ridiculous pile of medications, or reads the list of foods he's supposedly allergic to, but it also turns into a hospital drama (and doesn't fit as neatly as the other two segments).

Nevertheless, there's plenty of humor here, and it generally strikes a cross between deadpan and absurd; most of it is stuff that would likely never happen, but Moretti captures it all with straight-faced seriousness. But most of all, Moretti is a likable lead, and his work never really feels like self-indulgence. Rather, it's pleasant and amusing to spend time with him.

Film Movement released a restored version of the film on Blu-ray in 2020. It includes a deleted scenes, and a "making of" featurette, plus trailers for this and other Film Movement releases.

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