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Shy yet curious, smart yet often naive, tired of the past yet unsure about the future Piero lives in the town of Livorno where life has chosen to follow its own path. He fantasizes about girls, he dreams about having a new bike, and like every other boy in town he hopes that one day things will just line up for him. So when Piero finally meets Giovanna (Nicoletta Braschi) his heart responds with a passion so strong that in an instant the provincial town becomes the most exciting place in the world. For Piero life now has a meaning.
Ovosodo a.k.a Hard-boiled Egg, directed by Paolo Virzi (Caterina va in citta) who seems to be specializing in productions dealing with the lives of Italian teens, is very much your typical "coming of age" European story set in a small provincial town where nothing really exciting happens. The film follows the life of an ordinary boy from his teen years all the way through manhood after meticulously scrutinizing the joys, struggles, and disappointments Piero is bound to experience along the way. Before you rush and conclude "well, I certainly know what to expect from this film then" however I would like to warn you that Ovosodo actually surprises not only with its extremely well-put together narrative but also with its impeccably mastered camera work. With other words you are in for quite a journey that most certainly does not fit the description of a "dull and predictable coming-of-age story".
I have noticed that Paolo Virzi appears as a very vocal and outspoken director when class and social issues are being discussed in Italy. In one of his more recent films Caterina va in citta he goes in great detail exploring the vulnerability of a society that appears heavily influenced by its unstable political system. I find similar overtones in Ovosodo where class division is used as the main stage for a story which entangles romance with political criticism. Not a surprising direction indeed as lately many Italian filmmakers are beginning to elaborate yet again on political issues that appear hotly-debated in Italy (look up Marco Bellocchio's L'ora di Religione; Ferzan Ozpetek's Cuore Sacro).
Above all however Ovosodo is a sweet story about a boy slowly transforming into a man with a lot of responsibilities. In my opinion the film more than successfully manages to explore the innocent relationship between a teenager and the girl of his dreams while simultaneously analyzing a side of the Italian society that anything but looks innocent. For example when Piero befriends the eccentric Tommaso (Marco Cocci) Ovosodo remains strangely political in its narrative. Furthermore the manner in which the two boys are portrayed conveys a strange contrast which somehow does not fit the sweet character of the film. Piero is the poorly dressed, penniless boy that has all the reasons in the world to stand up and confront the social reality in his town. Yet, it is the over-privileged, upper-class looker Tommaso who talks about change and dreams about the opportunity of a life-time which his father, a wealthy industrialist, will eventually grant by sending him to college in America. There are indeed some very strange yet perfectly "normal" for Italy social contrasts that Paolo Virzi has captured immaculately.
Along with all of the serious overtones which Ovosodo delivers the film also manages to provide a fresh doze of humor that keeps it from transforming into just another film that recreates the life of provincial Italian youth. This is exactly what I liked about it and for me Ovosodo delivered that special feeling of a satire well-hidden under the veil of a romantic story which another recent film, Marco Ponti's acclaimed Santa Maradona, conveyed quite well. For that alone I think it is well worth seeking a copy of this film and giving it a try.
Recognized with the Grand Special Jury Prize and the Pasinetti Award at the Venice Film Festival as well as the Crystal Star for Best European Feature at the Brussels International Film Festival (1998) Ovosodo is yet another film that was acquired for distribution by Miramax and shelved somewhere collecting dust. Of course six years later and after all the major buzz this film received in Europe to hope for a North American release is as good as betting that you would be the next American Idol winner. With other words this splendid Italian film is very unlikely to make it to your local store. Which is indeed your loss as you will be denied the right to see a film that actually "gets it right".
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's I am happy to report that Ovosodo is not a direct PAL-NTSC port. Boasting solid tone colors, good contrast, and minimal degree of edge enhancement the picture quality is more than satisfying. I was especially pleased with the fact that the film looked extremely good when viewed through a digital projector. The only complain that I have is the fact that on a few specific spots I noticed some distracting macro-blocking. Other than that in my opinion the picture quality met my expectations especially given the fact that so many European films appear in R3 land as direct PAL-NTSC ports.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with its original Italian soundtrack (Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0) and optional English and Chinese subtitles Ovosodo sound very good. Music (and there is a lot of it) is well separated from dialog and I did not notice any particular audio glitches that might distract you from concentrating on the main feature.
There are no extra features on this DVD.
Here's yet another film that was unceremoniously denied US access (though Ovosodo was acquired for distribution by the US branch of Miramax). I thoroughly enjoyed it and just like it was the case with Paolo Virzi's Caterina va in citta I laughed quite a bit. If you enjoy Italian cinema and look for something fresh, non-clichéd coming-of-age story be sure to give this film a chance. You will love it. RECOMMENDED.