Criterion Prediction #10: Caro Diario, by Alexander Miller
Title: Caro Diario (Dear Diary)
Director: Nanni Moretti
Cast: Nanni Moretti, Giovanna Bozzolo, Sebastiano Nardone, Antonio Petrocelli
Synopsis: Director Moretti plays himself as a quirky and simple individual who gives us a three-act tour of life in Italy as he rides his Vespa through the uncharacteristically deserted streets of Rome in the summertime. Moretti’s narrative ranges from social to political to cultural to historical from the point of view of an offbeat, yet charming, outsider. Moretti’s social status as a late-era baby boomer leaves him to ponder the merits of modern pop culture and contemporary life in Italy. His analytical treatise covers societal mores, violence in modern cinema (his encounter with Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer is unforgettable) soap operas and life in general. This otherwise-freewheeling exploration is actually structured into three acts. In “On my Vespa”, our guide (Moretti) through Rome in the summer, making stops to the cinema, and a “chance” encounter with Jennifer Beals. In Chapter II, “Islands,” Moretti escapes Rome to Aeolian islands and meets with his friend whose studious education of Joyce’s Ulysses turns into an obsession with soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. Chapter III, “Doctors,” is a sobering story that is alternately disarmed by the film’s tonal levity that is, in fact, a part Moretti’s struggle with a potentially life-threatening diagnosis that seem allude a myriad of doctors and healthcare advocates.
Critique: Caro Diario is a unique and charming mixture of documentary, social commentary, and comedy. Assuming the role as director, commentator, and principal actor/subject, Moretti presents his unique cinematic amalgam as a means to voice his unintrusive insights. His informal narrative style favors an unembellished filming style of long, naturalistic takes shot with wide lenses.
Moretti’s loosely-implemented irony pits himself as a subject whose interactions ape his surroundings as well as satirize societal shortcomings, indifferent as to whether or not he exposes himself in the same light. This personal approach dismantles the otherwise preachy or aggrandizing pitfall that one frequently encounters with documentarists and social commentators.
Quiet, simple, and funny, Nanni Moretti’s is a voice that should be heard by more, and Caro Diario epitomizes his self-stylized auteurism. Moretti’s tour of doctors and medical professionals (by the third act) who seem to be equally at a loss to grasp his symptoms; not unlike his pondering of humanities idiosyncrasies expressed throughout the film. Juxtaposed with his travels and apprehensions this analogous finale leaves us with an oddly comforting conclusion; in other hands one might assume this finale a somber one, however, this reminds us that the absurdity of life is often difficult to comprehend regardless of your identity or profession. Caro Diaro is almost impossible to compare but easy to enjoy and a pleasure to revisit.
Why it Belongs in the Collection: When you think of Italian directors in the Criterion collection, all the big names associated with classic Italian cinema – Fellini, De Sica, Rossellini, Antonioni, Visconti, Pasolini – come up, while contemporary Italian directors seem to be lacking in presence, despite Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah, and Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty. Nanni Moretti fits because he has created such an individualistic filmography and career while his style is distinctively Italian. And a film like Caro Diario that so perfectly summarizes his style as a filmmaker is a great entry point for those who aren’t aware of this solitary voice in Italian film. While his stylistic restraint could be the cause of his informal acclaim, that just means that a Criterion release would give Moretti the boost of interest that would satisfy cinephiles eager to discover something new. The great thing about the Criterion Collection is that their releases will be two things; a director whose films you know and love, or a director who you are new to, and usually (more often than not) grow to love. Moretti would be a new name in the catalog, and Caro Diaro is a perfect place to start.