PLAYING AT SIFF | Previewing eighth year of Cinema Italian Style

Perfect Strangers (2016)

This movie is an hour and a half long thought experiment into how fast you can ruin relationships just by going through each other’s phones. When seven longtime friends (divvied up into three couples and one divorcee) get together for a dinner party, they decide to put their phones on the table and reveal every text message or phone call they receive that evening to each other 

It’s not a perfect movie, but for anyone that’s looking to run off that post-election energy on other people’s soapy issues, this is the one. “Perfect Strangers” finds a nice equilibrium between propelling the plot forward and imbuing its table with lived-in naturalism found in any lifelong friendships. Whether it has something higher to say — about society, secrets, and whether we’re better off not knowing — I’m not so sure. But when everyone has something to hide, it doesn’t necessarily matter. With each ring the group descends into another circle of uncomfortable uncertainty about how much they know about each other. With no skin in the game, the rest of us are just along for the ride. 

‘Perfect Strangers’ screens Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown. 


Once in Summer (2015)

Once, in a 1985 summer, two men took a forced vacation to an island in Sardinia. These two men, Judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, are working to fight the mafia. Their court case is the Mafia Maxi Trial, indicting 475 mafiosi for a wide array of crimes. It was considered to be the most important trial against the Sicilian Mafia, and one of the biggest trials in the world 

“Once in Summer” dramatizes Falcone and Borsellino’s trip, ruminating quietly on the commitment to work that has placed these men and their families in hiding from a mafia threat. Like at a vacation rental your parents have dragged you to, these two men (and their loved ones) have no choice but to ponder what it means to end up there, how unassailable their case could be to inconvenience them so. They knew the risks, and yet they’ve never felt so close to home. 

Fiorella Infascelli’s work plays with the mundanity of the too-quiet getaway, drawing out a character study of an unlikely friendship without diving too much into the stakes or the politics that got them where they are. Like a summer vacation, it’s deceptively light, but appropriately hands off. This one is just mandated by the government. 

‘Once in Summer’ screens Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown. 


Solo (2015)

All her life Flavia (Laura Morante, who also wrote and directed the movie) has worried. She’s worried about her husband, and then her next husband, and her two sons, and her friend, and whether she’s attractive enough, and whether she’s quiet enough, and whether she’s just enough. Her life is a cornucopia of neuroses, and now that she’s twice divorced she’s ready to reevaluate. 

“Solo” is her journey. It’s in the style of “The Big Short,” running through cringe-worthy moments of various neuroses, with Flavia addressing the audience directly in a voiceover. Within those fits and starts is a carousel of Woody Allen-esque self-growth—with the assistance of the oft mentioned Dr. Grünwald, patiently guiding her towards emotional independence. 

Though the narrative can be as disjointed as Flavia’s own scatterbrain, there’s an elegant story crafted within it all. The audience learns along with Flavia that everyone’s story has some merit, luminously weaving through the lives around her without ever abandoning her as an anchor to the story. There are plenty of moments of awkward humor — fantasy sequences, or Flavia’s family playing a trick on the proper pronunciation of “water”—but the best part of “Solo” will always be the heart at the center. Morante finds that with a little nudge, and maybe a little dog, anything is possible. 

‘Solo’ screens Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Prior to the film, Chateau Ste. Michelle will host an hour-long wine tasting event.