The Movie Waffler Re-Release Review - APRILE | The Movie Waffler

Re-Release Review - APRILE

Aprile review
Nanni Moretti struggles to document the 1996 Italian election.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Nanni Moretti

Starring: Nanni Moretti, Silvio Orlando, Silvia Nono, Daniele Luchetti

Aprile bluray

Though he had arrived on the Italian filmmaking scene as a Wellesian prodigy as far back as the mid-70s, it would take the release of 1993's Dear Diary to establish writer/director Nanni Moretti as a fixture of international arthouse programming. That film saw Moretti play a fictionalised version of himself, an avuncular Godard ranting about politics and pop culture. Dear Diary arrived at just the right moment to plug a hole in the arthouse zeitgeist, fulfilling the needs of two distinct audiences that had recently emerged - one who wanted more of the Godardian, postmodern schtick of the previous year's Reservoir Dogs, and those who wished to watch Woody Allen films without having to watch Woody Allen's films.

If Dear Diary was something of a second debut for Moretti, 1998's Aprile was a difficult second album. There's always the danger that when a filmmaker has a breakout hit and knows he has garnered a large audience, that he's going to retreat into either self-indulgence or political posturing (just look at how Michel Hazanavicius followed up his Oscar winner The Artist with his disastrous didactic dirge The Search). With Aprile, Moretti did both.

Aprile review

Moretti has often reductively been labelled "the Italian Woody Allen," and if you follow this line of thinking, Aprile is his Stardust Memories. Again, Moretti plays a meta version of himself, but unlike the joyful character we met in Dear Diary, here we find him tortured by internal and external forces.

Aprile is yet another , a movie about a filmmaker who can't get his act together to make his next movie. There's also a large dollop of Sullivan's Travels, as Moretti debates whether his talent and platform is better served educating or entertaining his audience. The entertainment side is represented by a musical he abandons on the first day of shooting. It's 1994 and Silvio Berlusconi has just won the election, and Moretti believes it's his duty to take the quasi-fascist down through the medium of film. Over the next two years, Moretti struggles to document Italian politics, leading up to the election of 1996, while distracted by impending fatherhood and his regular trips to the cinema (the movie serves as a time capsule of what was playing in picture palaces in the mid-90s).

Aprile review

Aprile is as directionless as the dithering version of himself Moretti essays here. Like Moretti's tortured filmmaker, it can't decide itself whether it's a piece of entertainment or enlightenment. It's absolutely possible for a movie to perform both tasks, but in Moretti's film the two strands merely interrupt one another. Moretti cuts from Mambo scored frolics to scenes of refugees landing on Italian shores with a moody score by Ludovico Einaudi in a manner that trivialises the latter while sucking the joy from the former.

It's easy to see what Moretti's intentions are here. He knows at this point his movie is going to reach audiences across the globe, so he wants to highlight the dire political state of his nation. But surely there's a better way to do this than simply showing us his frustrated reactions to the arrogance of the right and ineptitude of the left. Perhaps we should be glad for the invention of podcasts, which have now replaced cinema as the primary medium for celebrities to spout their political opinions without really saying anything.

Aprile review

Watching Aprile in 2020 is a very different experience for international audiences than at the time of its release. While politicians were as corrupt in the '90s as they are today, they weren't so arrogant about their corruption. Back in the day, we believed that a man with dubious business conflicts, Mussolini-esque nationalistic rhetoric and a history of sexual assault accusations could only become the leader of Italy. How naive we were.

There's something hypocritical about the conclusions Moretti reaches in Aprile. Like Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels, he ultimately concludes that with so much hardship in real life, the best way he can serve the Italian cinemagoing public is to give them a couple of hours of entertainment. The movie ends on a note of classic Moretti, as he and his crew jive along with the professional dancers on the set of the musical he's decided to resurrect. If Moretti recognises this as his strength, why didn't he make a movie more entertaining than Aprile?

 is on UK blu-ray/DVD/Digital November 23rd from Studiocanal.