FACING WINDOWS directed by Ferzan Ozpetek, written by Ozpetek and Gianni Romoli, produced by Romoli and Tilde Corsi, with Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Massimo Girotti, Raoul Bova and Filippo Nigro. 106 minutes. An R&C Production. A Sony Pictures/Mongrel Media release. Opens Friday (June 9). For venues and times, see Movies, page 83. Rating: NNNNN
Welcome to the cosmopolitan world of European cinema. Writer-director Ferzan Ozpetek was born in Turkey, trained in Italy, made a couple of features in Turkey - Harem Suare and Haman - that made a splash on the festival circuit, and then returned to Italy for his next two films. Ozpetek's first three films were noteworthy for a hazy sensuality that had a lot to do with their settings. His latest, Facing Windows, is a masterpiece about memory and responsibility.
Giovanna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and Filippo (Fillipo Nigro) are stuck in their marriage. She's a bookkeeper, he's worked a series of dead-end jobs. One night they're out shopping and find an old man (Massimo Girotti) wandering lost on a bridge, with no memory of who he is or where he belongs. Filippo brings him home rather than taking him to the police, much to Giovanna's dismay.
As they try to find out who he is (they're not privy to his few memories, flashbacks to 1943), Giovanna becomes increasingly fascinated by Lorenzo, a handsome young man whose apartment faces hers across a courtyard.
Ozpetek and co-scenarist Gianni Romoli have constructed an achingly detailed portrait of ordinary lives altered by simple events. It's a mystery that declines to become a thriller, instead opting to study the responsibilities that can result from an act of kindness.
Aside from its performances (Mezzogiorno and Girotti won Davids, the Italian Oscars), the great virtue of Facing Windows is its depiction of the urban milieu of apartments too small for the families that occupy them. It's a real physical world occupied by normal human beings engaged in real lives, something seen far too rarely in mainstream American pictures. And there's actual drama.
This was Massimo Girotti's last film in a career that spanned 60 years and included Visconti's Ossessione, an "unofficial" adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice, as well as Bertolucci's Last Tango In Paris. He died after the film was completed last year.