Film Reviews

That FLIFF Fling

Editor's note: The sprawling Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival continues through November 21. Here are reviews of some of the films that will be shown this week.


Where have all the great Italian directors gone? And what's happening with Italian cinema post-Fellini when the most notable film produced in the past ten years was 1994's Il Postino, a waifish and sentimental remake? And while the film was pleasing enough and certainly played well with American audiences, there's been nothing substantial of late for the Italian film industry to hang its hat on.

In Liberi, directed by Gianluca Maria Tavarelli, Italians will just have to keep looking for their next Sergio Leone. Not that Liberi is a bad film. It ultimately wins you over with its warmth and charm about those first difficult steps into adulthood, despite its problems. But it falls most definitely in the camp of latter-day Italian films that are largely whimsical, romantic, and insubstantial.

The story follows 20-year-old Vince, newly liberated from a high school sweetheart, who suddenly finds his hometown life much too small and confining. His father, Cenzo, has just lost his factory job of 30 years, and his mother, Paola, has had enough of her mopey husband and boring village and leaves for a new life in a seaside resort town. Vince follows her, gets a job in a restaurant, and tries to figure out what to do with his life. He meets the ravishing Genny and tries to figure out what to do with her while dealing with his parents' marital troubles (Cenzo arrives at Vince's doorstep to try to win back Paola).

It's a simple film with smart dialogue that captures reasonably well the confusions of young adulthood. But it relies too much on narration from Vince and feels aimless at times, getting bogged down with way too many scenes of Vince helping Genny overcome her panic attacks. By the end, though, the film redeems itself with several sweet and sentimental scenes. And that's pleasant. (7 p.m. Friday, October 29, Regal Delray; 3 p.m. Thursday, November 11, AMC Coral Ridge 10; 108 minutes; in Italian with English subtitles.) -- John Anderson

The Accidental Diva

The fascinating title character of this straightforward, 60 Minutes-style documentary is a sort of Cinderella of the opera world: Veronica Villaroel, a working-class girl from Santiago, Chile, who's transformed into an international star. Writer-producer-director Lydia Bendersky shows us images chronicling Villaroel's rise to fame before backing up for a portrait of the artist as a young party animal, dancing the night away to 1970s disco. Then comes a Zen moment in the shower, singing along to the Bee Gees' "Staying Alive" and realizing she has a voice. That soprano voice and her perfect ear turn out to be her passport out of class-bound Chile and into show business. After paying her dues in zarzuela (light Spanish-language opera), television, and film, Villaroel -- who insists at one point, "I never wanted to be an opera singer" -- finds herself a protégé of the likes of Plácido Domingo and Renata Scotto. Fame and fortune are not without their costs, however, as Villaroel realizes the loneliness of life as an international transient -- even when she returns to visit her beloved family, it's clear that in a very real sense, she can never go home again. (8:30 p.m. Thursday, October 28, Regal Delray; 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 10, AMC Coral Ridge 10; 58 minutes; in English and Spanish with English subtitles.) -- Michael Mills

Cuba Mía: Portrait of an All-Woman Orchestra

This modest but respectable 2002 documentary from Cuba is obviously a labor of love for writer-producer-director Cecilia Domeyko, who gives us snippets of the lives of nine musicians and their conductor as they prepare for their chamber orchestra's annual December concert. The group -- named the Camerata Romeu after the conductor (and the film's narrator), Zenaida Romeu -- is made up of ordinary women brought together under extraordinary circumstances. Not only is the ensemble all female but it specializes in the music of Cuba and other Latin American countries. The musicians also play from memory -- no sheet music is allowed beyond the rehearsal phase. Romeu, whose husband is the orchestra's manager, originally envisioned a full symphony orchestra composed entirely of women, but you never get the sense that settling for a smaller configuration forced a compromise in her standards. The women are uniformly talented and dedicated, and when they play, the emphasis on Hispanic compositions is a startling reminder that there's much more to the world of classical music than the work of dead white European men. Despite the occasional tinniness of the sound recording, the music itself is first-rate. (7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 28, Regal Delray; 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 10, AMC Coral Ridge 10; 56 minutes; in Spanish with English subtitles.) -- Michael Mills