Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Italian Key

Avain Italiaan / Nyckeln till Italien. FI/US/IT/GB 2011. PC: Rose Hope Pictures / Old Trace Road Productions / Harmaa Media Oy. P: Peter O. Almond, Tuomas Kantelinen, Seppo Toivonen. D+SC: Rosa Karo. DP: Gianni Giannelli, Ville Tanttu. PD: Stefano Maria Ortolani. Makeup + hair: Francesca Panariti. M: Tuomas Kantelinen. S: Olli Huhtanen. ED: Pauliina Punkki, Paul Martin Smith. Loc: mostly in Italy, in the mountain villages of Piemonte and Liguria - also in India (Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan), and England. CAST: Gwendolyn Anslow (Cabella), Joana Cartocci (Maria), Leo Vertunni (Leo), Moose Ali Khan (Lord Jai), Mikko Leppilampi (Mr. Fabian), Elisa Cartocci (Sophia), Isadora Cartocci (Giulia), Joeanna Sayler (Chiara), Peter O. Almond (Bronzini), John Shea (Alexander). 92 min. Original in English. Released in Finland by Nordisk Film. Screener dvd without subtitles viewed at home, Helsinki, 4 Jan 2012.

Technical specs (from Rosa Karo): Camera: RED One - master format: 4K RED Raw - aspect ratio: 1,85:1 - edited on AVID - digital intermediate by Generator Post - colour correction: Lustre - distributed on 35 mm and as a DCP - subtitle options: Finnish, Swedish, Italian, and Spanish.

From the production information: capsule: "The Italian Key is a romantic fairy-tale about a 19-year-old orphan girl whose sole inheritance from her custodian is an old key. It takes her to an Italian village and an old house where long-hushed family secrets are gradually unveiled."

"Synopsis: Cabella is a 19-year-old orphan girl who has never learned to know her parents. When uncle Max dies Cabella inherits an old key which leads her to a dilapidated house in a small Italian mountain village. In the wardrobe of the abandoned house there are clothes that fit Cabella, and one night she gets acquainted with the ghost of the late chimney-sweeper Angelo who died at the age of nine. Little by little she starts to find out what links her to the village and the villagers, and Cabella gets acquainted with the three sisters who live in the house next door. The big sister Maria has fallen in love with a mysterious Indian aristocrat who owns a castle by the side of the village. Sophia explores the nature while drawing animals and plants, and the little sister Giulia expects a dashing Romeo to arrive at the village in a bus. Feelings frozen in solitude start to grow, and a new life starts for Cabella. In a big party at the castle the romantic longings of the sisters may finally come true." (From the producer's Finnish-language information, translation mine.)

The Italian Key, "a rose hope production", the debut feature film written and directed by Rosa Karo, goes against the grain of the typical contemporary Finnish film production, whether arthouse or popular. The Italian Key is light entertainment for young girls, a feelgood movie, a fantasy wish-fulfillment tale seen through rosy spectacles. Harridans, the staple of contemporary Finnish cinema, are missing, and so is any kind of social reality. The fairy-tale mode is not unique in the Finnish cinema of today. Neil Hardwick's musical Jos rakastat [If You Love] was inspired by the fairy-tale "The Pearl of Adalmine" by Z. Topelius. Aki Kaurismäki has been inspired by H.C. Andersen, and Le Havre has actually a happier ending than a typical Andersen tale. There are two musical sequences in The Italian Key, quasi music videos, composed by Tuomas Kantelinen, the husband of the director.

Points of comparison brought to mind by The Italian Key include Claude Lelouch, Tarsem, Sofia Coppola, and Indian musicals.  The Italian Key is image-driven, dream-like, escapist, romantic, and naivistic. It is pulp fiction for girls. It indulges in goodness, faith, love, and being nice and positive. The young women in the leading roles are beautiful. The mountain views of the villages of Piemonte and Liguria are breathtaking. Visual motifs include keys, castles, sunflowers, and crippled ones (wheelchair bound or deaf-mute) starting to dance and hear again. The sun is always shining at daytime. At night, there is full moon. Charming princes find their princesses. The music is gentle and sweet.

Rosa Karo has the courage of her conviction to make a feelgood escapist romantic tale without a framework of postmodern irony.

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