Italy chooses 'Beautiful Thing' in Oscar race

Paolo Virzi's melancholy comedy 'La Prima Cosa Bella'

ROME -- "La Prima Cosa Bella" (The First Beautiful Thing), a melancholy comedy about a professor who returns home to take care of his dying mother, was selected Wednesday as Italy's official candidate for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.

The film is directed by 46-year-old director Paolo Virzi, who has had four films nominated for the David di Donatello prize for best screenplay or best film. So far, "La Prima Cosa Bella" has not won any major international honors.

The five official nominees for the Best Foreign Film honor will be selected early in 2011.

Italy has won more Best Foreign Film Oscars than any other country, with 13, but the country has not had a film selected as an official nominee since Cristina Comencini's "La bestia nel cuore" (Don't Tell) in 2005, and has not had a winner since Roberto Benigni's "La vita e bella" (Life is Beautiful) in 1998.