July 6 2012. July Getaways. Movies Reviewed: To Make a Farm, To Rome with Love

Posted in Canada, comedy, Cultural Mining, documentary, Italy, Uncategorized, US by CulturalMining.com on July 5, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

When the days turn as swelteringly hot as they’ve been the past few days, you have to get somewhere cool. And what place is better than a movie theatre? So in the spirit of getaways, this week I’m talking about a Canadian documentary about urban and suburbanites heading back to the land; and an American comedy about tourists escaping to a nostalgic view of a mythical Europe.

To Make a Farm
Dir: Steve Suderman

A lot of people are feeling alienated and unfulfilled by life in the suburbs. There’s no there there. So a bunch of them from Ontario and Manitoba, after attending organic farms to learn the trade, set off on their own or in pairs to make a go of it in the countryside. Wes decides to build himself a place from scratch, look for a source of water and start growing stuff. Jeff and Leslie want to grow vegetables for subscribers who buy shares in their plot of land. Tarah branches out into animal-rearing.

“The food in a supermarket isnt vibrant, It’s uniform but it’s not gorgeous…” says one of the back-to-the-land farmers, reveling in the colourful mounds of just washed produce.

The farmers meet with varying degrees of success over the course of the year the film was shot, but they really seem to love it. Born into suburban homes they finally feel they’re actually at home, something they created and tended to.

They plow the fields, herd ducks, chickes and sheep, without sheepdogs or giant shepherd’s staffs; they really get into the whole thing. Of course, they’re funded by people who want the organic ir fresh-grown food but don’t have time t0 make it themselves.

Not everything works out right – they’re afflicted with late growth, potato blight, sick birds, flooding… but none of this seems to bother them – it’s live and learn. In To Make a Farm you get to see what it’s like to go back to the land.

There are some amazing scenes, like Tarah who is, how can I put it, in love with the pigs on her farm. I mean physically (though not sexually, of course) in love with them. Which makes you wonder what’s going to happen when they turn them into bacon…

It’s a slow paced but beautifully shot movie, so you almost feel you’re there, but without the 4 am wake-ups.

To Rome with Love
Dir: Woody Allen

To Rome With Love follows four separate storylines about how American concepts of success or fame — in movies, music, or financial world – are played out daily in Rome.

Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) is an unsuccessful and underpaid office worker who lives a dull life with his wife (Monica Nappo) and kids. But for unknown reasons he suddenly finds himself a celebrity with rabid paparazzi chasing him and observing the minute details of his life. He trades the water cooler for the red carpet and finds he’s suddenly considered attractive to beautiful young women. Can he survive his taste of La Dolce Vita?

Meanwhile, a retired American music exec (Woody Allen) and his wife fly off to Rome to meet the parents of their daughter’s new Italian boyfriend – who met her on the Spanish Steps. But Dad is soon entranced when he hears his daughter’s prospective father in law singing opera in the shower. Can he make the undertaker into an Italian Susan Boyle?

And a successful American architect (Alec Baldwin) thinking back to his student days in Rome 30 years earlier, runs into a budding architect (Jesse Eisenberg) living just as he remembers it. As an older and wiser man, he feels compelled to try to rewrite history and help his younger version avoid the mistakes he’d made – an ill-founded infatuation with a superficial actress (Ellen Page).

And finally, a naïve, young couple travelling from a small town to Rome to make connections with his relatives and set up his career, fall into trouble. She stumbles onto a movie set and falls into the arms of a star; while he is caught with his pants down in the arms of a voluptuous prostitute (Penelope Cruz) by his relatives and is forced to carry on the charade that she’s actually his new bride. Will they emerge unscathed from their screwball comic mix-ups?

Although this comedy’s cute and enjoyable, there’s something strange and unsatisfying about it. First, the four stories never interact – they merely cut from one story to the next then back again – some seemingly taking a few hours, others a week or two. I was expecting to see a clever story that somehow tied the four stories together, even tangentially, but was sadly disappointed. The Rome he shows is supposed to be the Rome of today – but where are all the West Africans, the Ethiopians, the Tunisians, the Albanians…? This version of Rome looks like a time warp to me.

But most disappointing of all, was, despite the big-name American and Italian cast and a few genuinely funny scenes, it just like a remake of a second-rate TV show from the 50’s or 60’s – without an original image or an up-to-date topic to be found amongst them.

To Rome, With Love, and To Make a Farm, both open this weekend in Toronto; Toronto After Dark is showing some eerie found-footage films next Wednesday, TAAFI, Toronto’s animated arts festival international, and the First Peoples cinema series – films about first nations, inuit and aboriginal peoples around the world — are both playing right now at the TIFF Bell Lightbox

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, with podcasts and complete reviews available on my web site CulturalMining. com.

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