Pupi Avati's "Incantato" (Enchanted) is a poignant love story, laced with tenderness and gentle humor and told with the warmth of Italian movies in their seductively good-natured mode. It is a lovely period piece, leisurely paced and resonant with a most humane sensibility. In short, it is a traditional work in the best sense from a veteran writer-director.
Set in the 1920s, it stars Neri Marcorè as Nello, a shy Latin teacher who has reached age 35 without marrying, much to the consternation of his proudly womanizing father, Cesare (Giancarlo Giannini), a third-generation tailor not only to the pope but to much of the Vatican as well. To Cesare it's bad enough that Nello clearly won't be carrying on the family business, but the thought of him remaining unmarried much longer is unsupportable.
To that end Cesare has managed to land Nello, heretofore a private tutor in Rome, a professorship in a notable college in Bologna, a city he regards as more emancipated than Rome and an easier place for his son to find a wife. Cesare has also arranged for Nello to stay in a fine old boardinghouse run by the elegant Arabella (Sandra Milo, just as blond and glamorous as she was in Fellini's "Juliet of the Spirits" 40 years ago). Cesare has also passed approval on Nello's new roommate, Domenico (Nino D'Angelo), a barber from Naples with an eye for the ladies.
It is inadvertently through Domenico that Nello meets a woman who transfixes him. She is the stunningly beautiful Angela (Vanessa Incontrada), the tempestuous belle of Bologna high society. She would normally be the most unlikely prospect imaginable for Nello, but she has recently been left sightless after a fall from a tram. At this traumatic moment in her life she responds to the soft-spoken Nello, finding him tantalizingly different from the playboys of her set. Nello falls in love instantly, believing her blindness is cause for hope that his feelings will be returned.
Actually, Nello is no ugly duckling. He is tall and trim with warm, dark eyes; only a profile that would give John Barrymore no competition keeps him from being handsome. Still, if Angela could see him she most likely would not find him dashing enough for her racy tastes.
As a skilled storyteller Avati keeps viewers guessing whether love will conquer all. Marcorè is a subtle expressive actor, and the rest of the cast is as engaging as he is. With handsome, picturesque Bologna settings and rich interiors with Art Nouveau accents, plus a romantic score, "Incantato" lives up to its title.
MPAA rating: Unrated
Times guidelines: Some sexuality, adult themes
A Northern Arts Entertainment and Antonio Avati and RAI Cinema presentation. Writer-director Pupi Avati. Producer Antonio Avati for DUEA Film. Cinematographer Pasquale Rachini. Editor Amedeo Salfa. Music Riz Ortolani. Costumes Mario Carlini and Francesco Crivellini. Production designer Simona Migliotti. In Italian with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.
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