People who write about movies have pigeonholed Nanni Moretti as the Italian Woody Allen, which is, back then, a great way to sell a director. But despite being urban intellectuals, they have different aims. A recovering Allen fan, I can now see flaws in his work, one of which is his monolithic view of humanity. Through Caro Diario, Moretti shows that he is Allen’s opposite. Moretti is a man who mostly loves people and seeks them out.
Moretti begins his three-act movie in Rome during what I assume is the Ferragosto season, where humanity only exists in pockets. He eventually finds a dance party where everyone has a partner, regardless of their looks. And even when Moretti, who appears on screen as himself, is alone the movie still seems celebratory. This happy air is still present even when Jennifer Beals, also playing herself. In Beals’ one scene, she dog walks him in a scene that more people deserve to see.
Beals needs to be in more movies. Anyway, Nanni makes conversations during this act as drives around Rome with his Vespa, defending neighborhoods that get a bad rap from others. Watching this movie makes me wonder how my mother saw it. Rome is Eternal, but it would have been nice to experience it with her. This is also perfect viewing today, where certain sections of cities feel like ghost towns. Like Satantango but short and happy.
I have written too much about the movie’s first act, but it has Nanni watching movies and confronting film critics. It is a great mood setter for the next two. The second and longest depicts his journey as he hops from one Southern island to another, pointing out the quirks each city has. One is an island full of families. Moretti avoids the misanthropy that sometimes comes with observational humor.
Nanni shares his journey with Gerardo, a Ulysses scholar. One of their destinations is Stromboli, an island with a mayor in conflict with his people. The mayor insists to have him stay with a local, only for said locals to turn him away one by one. This is where Moretti’s chops come out, making his silent exhaustion funny.
Nanni and Gerardo’s long journey eventually ends, where Nanni may be able to find the solitude he needs to work. But then Gerardo to break that silence revealing that this Ulysses scholar is a Bold and the Beautiful stan. I would have preferred for that joke to have a better landing but there is admiration in place for such long form humor. It is time for both to come home, where Nanni tries to find a reason for a weird itch.
Caro Diario’s last act is the most personal act in Moretti’s film, basing it on his own cancer remission. Knowing that and writing about it means that critics must tread ground lightly. But the connection between this act and the other two are not obvious enough. It takes a while for viewers to show that this is a journey in a film of journeys, and behind this work is a director who knows how to laugh even at his personal tribulations.
The Paradise present Caro Diario. Buy a virtual ticket of the film through Film Movement.