Gianni AmelioItalian director Gianni Amelio is one of those prolific, respected European filmmakers of whom Americans see too little. Thank to a 12-film series beginning today at MoMA, however, this wrong is slowly being righted.

Poetry and Rigor: The Films of Gianni Amelio
is the first Amelio retrospective ever staged in New York, and features a mix of documentaries and award-winning fiction films from his 35 year career, five of them in newly struck prints. Amelio, perhaps a bit like Werner Herzog, is a difficult director to get a handle on because of the wide breadth of his work. Influenced by Neorealism, "his style is a reinvention of that genre" that often features extensive political content. His films are not stridently political, however. Instead, he touches on politics as part of his exploration of carefully crafted characters, many of them kids trying to comprehend the world and forge a place for themselves there.

Blow the Heart, for example, is a story about a smart, socially awkward teenage boy who witness the aftermath of a Red Brigade terror attack. At the same time that he's trying to understand his dysfunctional family, the boy is suddenly confronted with the possibility that his father is involved in the terror, and with his own responsibilities in the situation. The movie - which will show at MoMA on November 18 and 25 - manages to touch on major issues like truth and fascism while never losing its intimacy.

Other titles in Poetry and Rigor include Stolen Children (Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner in 1992), The Way They Laughed (won the Golden Lion at Venice in 1998), and Bertolucci According to the Cinema, a behind-the-scenes examination of great director's 1900. The series opens tonight (Amelio himself will introduce Stolen Children) and runs through 11/30.
categories Cinematical