VOD Releases: My Italy (2017) - Reviewed

My Italy is an awkwardly structured, occasionally funny, pseudo-documentary/comedy about what it is like to live in Italy from the perspective of four non-Italian contemporary artists. There is also a meta-narrative about independent filmmaker Bruno Colella’s attempts to get funding so he can finish making this very film. It is intended to be a comedy, but it’s oftentimes confusing narrative makes it too off-putting to be funny. It is, in part, about what it means to be an artist and the sacrifices one must make to create art in this day and age. But its artifice, though intentional, does not allow its themes to successfully come across. In addition, its structure sometimes makes it difficult to remember who each person is. ​

The four artists featured in the film are Malaysian H.H. Lim, Danish Thorsten Kirchhoff, Polish Krzysztof Bednarski and American Mark Kostabi. They each have a small section of the film devoted to them (one of the film’s small jokes is that they all think the movie is a biography about them and do not realize the other artists are in the film). 

Lim’s part is by far the shortest and least successful. It shows him following a woman and drawing her. Bednarski is asked by the widow of an alleged mobster to replicate a sculpture for her husband’s grave that he originally made for the grave of director Krzysztof Kieslowski. Kirchhoff tries to get to Padula to remove an installation he created. Kostabi talks about getting free food at restaurants in exchange for his art and demonstrates his door-to-door strategy for selling his work. 

Kirchhoff’s is the longest, funniest, and most developed of the vignettes, as his road trip features odd encounters with an unhelpful mechanic, a possible ghost and a couple of nice muggers. It is the closest any of these stories gets to having a beginning, middle and end. But none of these sequences really give much insight into art, the artists themselves, the history of Italy or what it is like to live in modern day Italy. ​

The other story, about Colella’s search for additional funding, also has some moments of humor but, like the rest, feels like an unfinished short film. He pitches his film to a few people and we see most of them shoot him down. There is a mildly funny sequence where one of them agrees to give him money on the condition he hires former Italian sex symbol Serena Grandi to star but, like pretty much everything else in the film, there is no real payoff. 

Since there are moments that could only be captured in a fiction film, the documentary style feels pointless. It is a distracting gimmick that adds little to no realism to a film that is essentially a quirky indie comedy. Some of the various vignettes show promise, but they never coalesce into a whole. Despite there being so much going on, it never seemed like it was every truly about its subject. There are good things in My Italy (some decent ideas, a couple sequences that work and a lively and energetic score), but the irritating outweighed the good and, eventually, its quirks grew tiring.

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-Ben Pivoz