Quiet Chaos

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Berlin International Film Festival

ROME -- In "Quiet Chaos," directed by Antontello Grimaldi ("Bits and Pieces") and featuring Italian enfant terrible actor-director Nanni Moretti, what unfolds is a father's love for his 10-year-old daughter as he copes with the unexpected death of his wife. This marks the first time Moretti has starred in a film not directed by him in 13 years.

"Quiet Chaos," which recently screened at the Berlin International Film Festival and is playing in Italy, will not disappoint international audiences that have come to appreciate Moretti's trademark irony and growing maturity as an actor. Make no mistake, this is a Moretti vehicle as there are few scenes in which he does not appear.

After a painfully stiff opening, the film slowly but assuredly loses its literary feel -- it was adapted from the eponymous novel by Sandro Veronesi by Moretti, Laura Paolucci and Francesco Piccolo -- to find its pace and heart. In the same moment that media executive Pietro Paladini (Moretti) and his brother Carlo (Alessandro Gassman) save two women from drowning, Pietro's wife dies from a fatal fall. Left alone with his daughter, Claudia (Blu Yoshimi), he worries about her lack of emotion over the loss as well as his own. Neither has broken down since the death, enveloped by a strange calm, and he does not understand why.

Shortly thereafter, on the first day of school, Pietro promises Claudia that he will wait for her in front of the building all day, without moving. He proceeds to do just that. One day turns into two, then a week and eventually months as he sits in a park in front of the school, observing and getting to know the other mothers, neighborhood residents and regular passersby.

His co-workers and family try to persuade him to get a grip on himself and return to work. Slowly, however, they start seeking Pietro not to offer consolation but to get advice. He becomes caught up in a pregnancy, the breakdown of the marriage of the woman he saved and his company's forthcoming merger.

A reluctant guru who wants only to be left alone, Pietro tries to make sense of his feelings and, in an effective use of narrative, creates lists in his head to keep himself occupied such as the airlines he has flown and houses he has lived in throughout his life.

Managing to avoid facile sentimentality, the story grows emotionally more and more engaging thanks to Moretti's impeccable comic timing and neurotic acumen. While we never forget we are watching Moretti, we do see a deeper side to him as his brusque awkwardness finds a perfect outlet here.

Not knowing how to help Claudia, in his own fumbling yet unrelenting way Pietro seems more surprised than anyone to realize that showing his daughter he loves her means offering her trustworthiness and stability, which we are led to believe did not come easily to him before Laura's death.

Moretti makes ample room for the other actors, from Gassman, whose playboy nonchalance is balanced by his deep love for his brother, to Silvio Orlando, who plays Pietro's nebbish colleague. Yoshimi is wonderfully low-key as the precocious yet hard-to-read Claudia. French stars Hippolyte Girardot and Charles Berling also give solid turns in their secondary roles.

"Quiet Chaos" already has sparked controversy for a sex scene between Moretti and Isabella Ferrari. Certainly not scandalous by European standards, the sequence is difficult to watch because Moretti is often called Italy's Woody Allen and like the American icon has always been known for his woman-crazed yet relatively sexless intellect and comedy. It therefore seems like watching a family member having sex, and rough sex at that, which makes the scene all the more perplexing. At best, it might have been intended to show that his increasing tenderness is truly new to him, but it is in such contrast to the rest of his character that it simply makes Pietro less sympathetic.

Luckily, Moretti carries the film through to its touching finale with an emotional restraint that belies the profound desire for salvation of an imperfect man and father.

QUIET CHAOS
Fandango, RAI Cinema, Portobello, Phoenix Film Investment
Credits:
Director: Antonello Grimaldi
Screenwriters: Nanni Moretti, Laura Paolucci, Francesco Piccolo
Producer: Domenico Procacci
Executive producer: Eric Abraham
Director of photography: Alessandro Pesci
Production designer: Giada Calabria
Music: Paolo Buonvino
Costume designers: Alexandra Toesca
Editor: Angelo Nicolini
Cast:
Pietro Paladini: Nanni Moretti
Marta: Valeria Golino
Eleonora Simoncini: Isabella Ferrari
Carlo: Alessandro Gassman
Claudia: Blu Yoshimi
Jean Claude: Hippolyte Girardot
Boesson: Charles Berling
Samuele: Silvio Orlando
Running time -- 117 minutes
No MPAA rating
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