Thursday August 27, 1998
"The most extraordinary aspect of love," says Pupi Avati, writer-director of "The Best Man"--playing at Edwards Town Center--is "the irrepressible, out-of-control, unexplainable impulse."
Avati's new film--set in a northern Italian village on the last day of the 19th century--is about a young woman who falls in love with a stranger on the day of her marriage to a bald, wealthy local Don Juan (Dario Cantarelli).
The girl's pragmatic mother, Olimpia (Valeria D'Obici), counsels her daughter that love is merely an illusion. Her father (Mario Erpichini) is depending on the impending union to save the family from financial ruin. But Francesca (24-year-old Spanish actress Ines Sastre) feels destined for better things.
A better thing turns up at the wedding: Angelo (Diego Abantanuono), the best man, recently returned from the U.S., where he claims to have made a small fortune in business. (Avati has said he modeled this character on his grandfather, an emigre who returned to his native Sasso Marconi from America with enough money to buy the whole village.)
At the ceremony, Francesca's sudden passion for Angelo is obvious to everyone. Gossiping townspeople and a mixture of religiosity and folk wisdom root the romance in the mores of a bygone era.
Times film critic Kevin Thomas writes that the film "has so much going for it--an attractive cast, an amusing story, gorgeous period locales, a sweepingly romantic Riz Ortolani score--it's hard to understand why Avati allowed it to become so listless." Despite "many exquisitely staged amusing moments, there's not much substance to string them together."
In Italian with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
Edwards Town Center, Bristol Street at Anton Boulevard, Costa Mesa., 1998. PG for thematic elements; (714) 751-4184.