with the big guns of art cinema like Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette and Shohei Imamura ranged on one side and the rising cinemas of Iran (Mohsen Makhmalbaf) and Taiwan (Tsai Ming-liang, Hou Hsiao-hsien) on the other, when Nanni Moretti's tiny, emotionally powerful The Son's Room won the Palme d'Or at Cannes last year, it shocked a lot of people. Its detractors dismiss it as a TV movie of the week, and those of us who like it can see their point even if we disagree with their assessment.
It's a three-handed family drama about the impact of a child's death, filmed by one of the plainest filmmakers ever to emerge from the Italian cinema. The Son's Room is the sort of film you expect to have an impact in theatres, not in the Salles of the Palais des Festivals. In its way, it's simply too small to win that big a prize.
I do worry that North American audiences, having already had the chance to see In The Bedroom, will figure they've already seen their small family melodrama on this subject and look for something else. It'll be a shame if they do, because The Son's Room has its own brand of authenticity. It's interesting to see Moretti (Caro Diario), a slightly misanthropic satirist, working so close to the emotional bone both as director and actor: he plays the father.
Indeed, one of the satisfying aspects of The Son's Room and its victory was that Moretti's film was far closer to the emotionally intimate spirit of the French Nouvelle Vague than either Godard's or Rivette's competition films, the works of aging giants who are chewing over theoretical questions rather than coming straight at the emotional truth of their firstname.lastname@example.org
THE SON'S ROOM directed and written by Nanni Moretti, produced by Angelo Barbagallo and Moretti, with Moretti, Laura Morante, Jasmine Trinca and Giuseppe Sanfelice. 99 minutes. A BAC Films production. A Miramax release through Alliance-Atlantis. Opens Friday (February 1). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 70. Rating: NNNN