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"Quiet Chaos" review (4/5). Nanni Moretti shows his heartfelt and complex side

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Watch Italian actor and director Nanni Moretti’s complex and heartfelt performance as a grieving widower in the family drama “Quiet Chaos” (Caos Calmo) and try to imagine a time when he was quickly summed up as Italy’s answer to Woody Allen.
Few actors are capable of performances that speak so truthfully about men, their complicated relationships with work and family and their way in the modern world, like Moretti. He’s in a league all his own. While Moretti forgoes directing “Quiet Chaos” in place of fellow Italian Antonello Grimaldi, his performance is strong enough to cancel any nostalgia for his alter ego Michele, the funny protagonist of his early films “Ecce Bombo,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Palombella Rossa.” Thankfully, Moretti’s comic touch remains intact throughout “Quiet Chaos,” a drama that benefits from spots of laughter. More importantly, Moretti displays a skill for drama far better than any of Allen’s serious efforts. From now on, Moretti’s comparisons to Allen stop.

Pietro (Moretti) is a TV executive and unexpected widower with a 10-year-old daughter, Claudia (Blu Yoshimi). Facing guilt over his absence during his wife’s tragic accident at home, Pietro leaves his office in Rome and starts a daily routine of waiting outside Claudia’s school until her afternoon dismissal.
His days in the park outside the school start out as a lonely vigil but over weeks turn into a rich and colorful experience. Pietro observes the lives of all the people around him, a café owner, a young woman who walks her dog, and his time on the park bench slowly changes his life for the better.

Moretti, Laura Paolucci and Francesco Piccolo collaborate on adapting Sandro Veronesi’s popular 2007 novel and the result is a thoughtful melodrama with well-drawn characters, believable subplots, including a woman Pietro saves from drowning, and welcome restraint in the area of sentimentality. Cinematographer Alessandro Pesci finds beauty in every corner and every angle of the small park Pietro makes his daytime home. Editor Angelo Nicolini and director Grimaldi (An Impossible Crime) maintain swift storytelling and best of all ensure that Moretti remains in the spotlight from start to finish.

Moretti has tackled the subject of family loss before. In his 2002 drama The Son’s Room, a family is devastated by the death of a beloved teenage son. In Quiet Chaos, a father and daughter appear unmoved by the death of their wife and mother. The quiet chaos of the movie is what’s occurring inside their minds. The Son’s Room, the better film, generates tears but Quiet Chaos makes one think. IFC opens the film in NY June 26 as well as VOD.

With a noble nose, handsome looks and a quick wit, I cannot imagine a more likable leading man than Moretti. He’s believable no matter what the film requires: sitting uncomfortably in a company meeting, smoking opium with his brother Carlo (Alessandro Gassman) and passing out during a meeting for parents dealing with the loss of a loved one. Moretti makes Pietro’s coping mechanisms comical. He recites lists of the airlines he has flown and the addresses of his homes through the years.

As Pietro’s sister-in-law, Valeria Golino provides the type of high-strung Italian woman we’ve come to expect from her. Roman Polanski makes a dramatic impact in his brief cameo as Steiner, the businessman involved with the taking over of Pietro’s Italian broadcaster.

In the movie’s final scenes, Pietro’s newfound friends watch the mysterious Steiner as he visits Pietro in the park but all eyes remain fixed on Moretti.
After a brief misstep involving school children chasing a big dog through the park, the film ends poignantly. It’s not the least bit surprising, but thanks to Moretti, it’s emotionally satisfying just the same.

Distributor: IFC Films
Cast: Nanni Moretti, Valeria Golino, Blu Yoshimi, Alessandro Gassman
Director: Antonello Grimaldi
Screenwriter: Nanni Moretti, Maura Paolucci, Francesco Piccolo; from the novel by Sandro Veronesi
Producers: RAI Cinema, Portobello Pictures, Phoenix Film, Fandango
Rating: Rated Unrated with adult themes, language and strong sexual content
Running time: 112 minutes
Release Date: June 26, 2009


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