A Beloved Comedian’s Film on Domestic Abuse Draws Italians, in Droves

By admin Dec8,2023

A movie centered on domestic abuse isn’t an obvious crowd-pleaser, even when directed by and starring one of Italy’s most popular performers.

Yet exactly such a film, “C’è ancora domani” (“There’s Still Tomorrow”), the directorial debut from the comedian Paola Cortellesi, immediately shot to No. 1 at the national box office after opening in theaters in late October, and this week became one of the country’s 10 highest-grossing films ever.

“Certainly, I’m surprised,” Cortellesi said during an interview in a bar in her leafy Rome neighborhood, though she added, “It’s a good film, and I am satisfied with what I did.” She attributed the movie’s widespread popularity to “having touched a raw nerve in the country.”

The film — which manages to be both heart-wrenching and uplifting — arrived at a time when domestic violence, femicide and women’s rights have dominated public discourse since the death last month of a 22-year-old student, Giulia Cecchettin, in a case in which her former boyfriend is being investigated over her murder.

“There’s Still Tomorrow” is set in 1946, in a Rome still struggling with poverty and the fallout from World War II. Cortellesi, 50, who co-wrote the screenplay, said she had been mulling over the film’s themes — disparity, domestic violence and women’s rights — “for a long time.”

“I wanted to make a contemporary movie set in the past, because I think that unfortunately many things have remained the same,” Cortellesi said. “Naturally there have been advances, rights have changed, laws have changed, but not completely — that is, proportionately, not in the mentality.”

The film captures the quotidian struggles of the protagonist, Delia, whose husband abuses her in a world where women’s roles are undervalued and their opinions scornfully ignored. It is loosely inspired by the tales Cortellesi’s grandmothers told her as a child about what it was like to be a woman during that time.

The movie is in black and white — as the filmmaker said she always imagined her grandmothers’ old stories to be — a choice that is a deliberate nod to the neorealist film tradition that blossomed in Italy in the wake of World War II. Cinema buffs will also notice that for the first eight minutes the film is shot with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which dominated early cinema and television, but then the screen widens, as the opening credits roll to “Calvin,” a 1998 song by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

Chiara Tognolotti, a professor of History of Italian Cinema at the University of Pisa, noted that Cortellesi was following a common theme of early Italian cinema by portraying “women who try to change their existences, to overturn the typical script a woman was supposed to stick to.”

The film explores the tension between the “patriarchal structure that informs Italian society” and a desire to recognize the importance of women’s societal role, “which in fact already exists,” but isn’t always acknowledged, Tognolotti said.

Cortellesi has been entertaining Italian audiences for decades. She honed her writing and acting chops as a comedian on radio and television, where she used her talent for mimicry and an euphonious voice to impersonate famous singers — mostly Italian, but also Cher, Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez.

Her stage and television repertoire includes several monologues that use comedy to tackle difficult issues like chauvinism and domestic abuse.

She began working in cinema alongside some of Italy’s most popular comics as well as leading men, winning a shelf-full of acting awards. When she started writing screenplays about a decade ago, her stories often focused on issues of social justice involving women, “maybe joking about them,” but also making a point, she said.

Moving into the director’s chair felt like a natural progression: After writing several scripts that were made into films by others, she decided that she wanted to bring her vision to life in addition to her words. “I thought that maybe the time had come to tell my story in my way,” she said. Producers who had worked with Cortellesi in the past agreed and decided to back her. “It was the right time,” she said.

They could also count on her appeal to audiences.

“I think we shouldn’t undervalue Cortellesi’s star power,” said Tognolotti, the cinema history professor. “She’s very popular through television, through her films,” which “appeal to a vast public” through the variety of roles she has played. “That’s one of the reasons this film has been so successful.”

Beyond the box office boom, “There’s Still Tomorrow” has taken off in other ways that Cortellesi could not have imagined.

It was shown in the Italian Senate to mark the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25. That week, more than 55,000 teenage students watched the film at cinemas throughout Italy, followed by a live-streamed question-and-answer session with the director and some of the cast. And secondary-school teachers have written Cortellesi to say that they have brought their classes to see the film so that they could discuss the issues it raises.

Elena Biaggioni, the vice president of D.i. Re, a national anti-violence network run by women’s organizations, said that by reaching large audiences, the film was contributing to nationwide cultural awareness about domestic violence, adding to efforts spearheaded by women’s groups, the news media and parliamentary commissions that have looked into femicide. “I hope it’s a propelling force,” Biaggioni said.

Cortellesi said she hadn’t set out to make a propaganda film. But she wants Italy’s younger generations, including her daughter, who is 10, to know about the history of women’s rights in Italy. “She has to know that these rights have to be defended, and that they can be put at risk,” she said.

She deliberately wrote the role of the abusive husband as a loser — “frightening, but also foolish, because he’s an idiot” — so that he wouldn’t be anyone whom young men might look up to. “There couldn’t be even the slightest risk that boys would want to emulate him,” she said. “When they see him, they have to say, ‘I want to be anything but,’ because he has no appeal.”

In the immediate future, Cortellesi is touring with the film, in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. “I want it to have a long life,” she said.

She has also found that she has a taste for directing. “I’m not giving it up,” she said.

By admin

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *