By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 29, 2009 at 6:26AM
The Italian government's decision to submit Giuseppe Tornatore's $35.5 million period epic Baaria for the foreign film Oscar is already kicking up a fuss. 53-year-old Tornatore's tribute to his Sicilian hometown spans three generations, from the 1930s to the present, from the rise of Fascism through World War II and its aftermath. Among the most expensive Italian films ever made, utilizing 35,000 Tunisian extras, the picture was the first Italian film to open the Venice Film Festival in two decades. Tornatore already won the Oscar in 1998, for Cinema Paradiso. The deadline for countries to submit their films is October 1. IndieWIRE is tracking submissions to date.
"This is an outrage," asserts one festival programmer, who thinks that Marco Bellocchio's Vincere, the story of Mussolini's secret lover and their son, would have made a better choice. (That film was selected by the trifecta of film fests in Telluride, Toronto and New York.) "Evidently political pressures forced the Italians to give it to Tonatorre's big budget bust. People who saw it in Venice couldn't believe how bad it was. The selection system needs to change."
Here's the lede of Variety's review:
Overblown in every sense, “Baaria,” Giuseppe Tornatore’s multi-decade evocation of life in the Sicilian town of Bagheria (“Baaria” in the local dialect) boasts large sets and extras by the thousands, but the vet helmer seems to have forgotten how to develop a scene, let alone a character. Awash in phony nostalgia, cheap sentimentalism and puffed-up orchestrations, the pic could lure in locals with an advertising blitz, but offshore prospects don’t look good.