SXSW 2012 Review: ITALY: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT
What is one’s relation to his or her homeland? Is it one’s responsibility to, no matter how bad things truly get, to see that your nation of birth thrives to its fullest extent? These are just a few of the questions posited by the new documentary from ‘Suddenly Last Winter’ directing team Luca Ragazzi and Gustav Hofer, entitled ‘Italy: Love It Or Leave It.’
‘Italy’ follows our two protagonists, as they try to both reconcile with the current state of their beloved Italy, while also seeing if this beautiful but trouble country is the best place for them to live going forward. A travelogue with a penchant for musing on the nation’s past, ‘Love It Or Leave It’ is a rather breezy watch, but it’s one that will definitely spark more than an occasional conversation following a viewing of it.
Making the festival rounds last year, the film has found quite a bit of praise following its debut, and for a just reason. Structurally, ‘Italy’ isn’t much to write home about. Playing as if it were a travelogue, the film uses a great bit of archival footage, live interviews, animated interludes, and other stylistic touches to bring us this story of two young men, coming to terms with a nation’s trouble present and historically fruitful past.
Both Luca and Gustav have their doubts about their respective choices, be it Gustav’s consistent doubting of Luca’s blind love for his homeland or Luca’s anger at Gustav’s stubbornness (which he attributes itself to where his right hand man was born), and also whether or not this is even a good idea conceptually. Is it ones responsibility to see that their nation of birth makes it out the other side? Or in today’s world, does one have to think for him or her own good? This is a universal question, and one that is often discussed stateside, when people (even jokingly) say that they will leave if a law is put into place that they don’t agree with. Each of our leads sees this question differently, and it is this very question that makes ‘Italy’ a film worth digging deeply into.
Visually, the film is gorgeous. Italy is one hell of a place to set a documentary, let alone one of this ilk, and the pair uses the landscape perfectly. Be it gorgeous establishing shots of the rustic river-side villas or shots of a road trip through Tuscany, ‘Italy’ is a film that uses its titular country’s iconic landscape to its absolute fullest. You can tell that the love of their birth place is inherent within them, and thankfully, we are privy to this love in the most pure cinematic fashion.
That said, the film isn’t without flaw. Clocking in at a brisk 75 minutes, the film feels a bit short, often times giving us a very broad look into each respective topic. The final act seems to tidy up in a rushed and sloppy fashion, making for a film that asks a lot of interesting questions, but doesn’t do much intellectual leg work in answering them on screen. With its closest relative being something like ‘The Trip,’ the film could have stood to either be a good half hour longer, or built as a much longer, mini-series like piece. This would have allowed for longer interviews, and would have given the film itself some sort of cinematic breathing room, to answer a lot of this very interesting questions in a deeper manner.
Overall, for those looking to bask in the glow of Italy, or for something to ponder over with friends while drinking coffee, ‘Italy: Love It Or Leave It’ is just what the doctor ordered. An easy watch, the film is massively entertaining, often thought provoking, and uses the Italian landscape to its absolute fullest. Despite its flaws, this is definitely a documentary to be seen.
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