Agatha (Lucia Maglietta) is a beautiful middle-aged woman running a tiny yet posh bookstore in the coastal city of Genoa, Italy. She is often visited by the significantly younger Nico (Claudio Santamaria) who can not resist Agatha's charm. The couple falls madly in love and sparks are flying in the air. Strangely enough so is everything else that Agatha touches. When she gets excited, a toaster, computer, even traffic lights fall victim of a strange force that rages deep inside Agatha.
Her brother Gustavo (Emilio Solfirizzi) is a man in the middle of a serious identity crisis. He has just learned that more than thirty years ago his parents bought him from a poor stranger in a desperate need of money. On a top of everything else Gustavo's "unknown" brother Romeo (Giuseppe Battiston) more than lives up to the reputation of his name. He is a helpless womanizer that regularly ends up in the arms of women he barely even knows. While Gustavo is caught up in a deadly spiral threatening to destroy his sanity, Romeo is facing a family crisis that is likely to consume his marriage, while Agatha is trying to understand the passionate "storm" that is clouding her life.
Agatha e la Tempesta is a sweet reunion for director Silvio Soldini, Lucia Maglietta, and Giuseppe Battiston. After their enormously successful Pane e Tulipani a.k.a Bread and Tulips (2000) which won nine David di Donatello Awards, the Italian Oscars, including Best Film Award and Best Male Actor Award for Bruno Ganz (Der Untergang) this new project runs in rather familiar waters where Lucia Maglietta is again at her best. Unfortunately the script does not allow her to fully showcase her talent as an actress as there are a number of loopholes dragging the narrative substantially.
One of the main setbacks that visibly affects Agatha e la Tempesta is the disjointed manner in which the plot introduces the main characters. During the first fifteen to twenty minutes it is rather difficult to pinpoint who is who and what direction the story will follow. There are too many aspects of the script that unintentionally keep Agatha, Gustavo, and Romeo from connecting with the audience. Fortunately enough after Agatha and Nico begin their affair all of the major pieces of this romantic puzzle slowly begin to line and the story shape up quite well.
Perhaps the biggest asset of this film is, as it was the case with Pane e Tulipani, the enormously energetic Lucia Maglietta. The wonderful, warm, and often awkwardly funny Agatha that she plays is very much a modern woman that faces many of the conventional challenges a person her age would. From madly falling in love with a married and substantially younger man to being the social barometer in a family that anything but looks customary Agatha graces the screen with an easiness that does not remain unnoticed.
On the other hand, I have to admit that the two brothers, Gustavo and Romeo, did not enhance the story as they could have but rather made it drag a bit especially in the second half of the film. Their actions interfered with my desire to follow closer Agatha and her mystic electrical "gift". Furthermore, clocking in at well over two hours Agatha e la Tempesta might prove a bit of a challenge for some of the more impatient viewers especially considering how the story evolves.
It can not be denied, however, that Silvio Soldini is a director that knows how to create a realistic yet charming story with a style. His protagonists are real human beings that are easy to identify with, perhaps even too easy to embrace. As a result the viewer remains wondering why is it that they all suffer from relationships that are as antagonistic and complicated as the ones we see them battling in Agatha e la Tempesta.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 Agatha e la Tempesta is enhanced for widescreen TV's. The print is generally clean of any digital imperfections as contrast appears to be handled perfectly, colors are rich without bleeding, and edge enhancement for the most part is kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, this is not a progressive transfer (the film has not been transferred frame by frame) and there is some mild "combing" that could be seen by those with a sensitive enough eye. It is worth pointing out however that this is not the excessive "ghosting" we typically associate with direct PAL to NTSC transfers (and this film does show evidence of improper conversion). At least judging by the amount evident in this print for the most part it is only visible if you specifically look for it (one particular scene that stands out is when Agatha, Gustavo, and Romeo are in the country side considering a location for their future business, if paused the image exhibits a very distracting amount of "ghosting").
How Does the DVD Sound?
Agatha e la Tempesta is presented with Italian 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks and optional yellow English subtitles. The soundtracks are very well-handled separating dialog from supporting music flawlessly. There is absolutely nothing with the audio presentation that one might feel unhappy with.
The only extras provided by Film Movement are their marquee short film, Dennis Lee's Jesus Henri Christ, and biographies of the main cast and director. In addition, there is a gallery of other releases supplied by Film Movement. For those unfamiliar with the practice that Film Movement follows with every one of their releases they tend to include a short notable film in addition to the main feature. Jesus Henri Christ tells the story of a young boy attending a Catholic school where he confronts the principal and creates a major turmoil. Not an overly impressive feature but well worth your time.
While certainly not in the league of Pane e Tulipani Silvio Soldini's latest film is full of life and loveable characters that are well-worth seeing. Lucia Maglietta's performance is absolutely captivating and at least for me saves the film from being an overly-long social comedy dealing with familiar subjects. If in a mood for a light comedy with zesty Italian characters Agatha e la Tempesta comes RECOMMENDED.