Luca Ragazzi (left) and Gustav Hofer aren’t spokespeople for Tourism Italy.
ITALY: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT (Gustav Hofer, Luca Ragazzi). 75 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (January 25) at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See listings. Rating: NNN
Directors Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi have been evicted from their apartment in Rome. Hofer wants to move to Berlin; Ragazzi can't imagine leaving Italy. The two set out on a road trip to prove their points of view.
Don't expect paeans of ecstasy to art, architecture and food. As Hofer says, "They eat in Berlin, too." Instead, though they do meet some forward-thinking citizens, the couple seem to go wherever there's evidence of the worst about the country.
In Turin, workers at the legendary Fiat plant are losing their rights. Profit-seeking manufacturers of the famous Bialetti espresso maker have moved their operation to Romania. Gorgeous Lago Como is polluted. Immigrant workers picking oranges and tomatoes in the south are brutally exploited. Gay rights don't exist (a subject also covered in Suddenly Last Winter, the directors' last doc). And the country is overseen by the bunga bunga guy, then-PM Silvio Berlusconi.
Though Berlusconi's supporters are fascinating, not all of this makes for riveting viewing. The major entertainment value comes from watching the relationship between the two filmmakers, even though some of the dialogue seems scripted. They're both Italian, but, born in different regions, they're very different. Just watch Hofer drive his car at an excruciatingly slow 60 km/h on the highway, to Ragazzi's disgust.
Call Italy: Love It Or Leave It an anti-travelogue. The image conveyed is definitely not the one Tourism Italy would hope for.