Discovering “Every Character Under the Sun” This Year

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The Miami International Film Festival’s theme this year, “Every Character Under the Sun,” has been portrayed clearly in at least three of the films presented thus far.

What is sweeter than a pre-adolescent romance? A silver romance between Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer in Director George Radford’s adaptation of Elsa & Fred.
When Fred, a grumpy old man who has recently lost his wife, moves in next door to Elsa, a transformation begins. The tenacious Elsa begins to win him over, and Fred awakens from the stupor and defeatist mentality with which he had arrived. 
Though there were some questionable camera shots and hard cuts, the story is tender enough to pull at your heartstrings. 

Spanish Director-writer Patxi Amezcua reflects his appreciation for creating tension in his film, Séptimo, starring Ricardo Darín and Belén Rueda. 
In the film, Darín plays Sebastián, a father, attorney, and soon-to-be divorcée, who becomes frantic as he discovers his children have disappeared while playing their usual game of running down the stairs of their Argentine apartment building. With his talent, also seen in Césc Gay’s Una pistola en cada mano (featured at the festival last year), Darín impeccably portrays a father’s desperation, which is evident as he climbs and descends the stairs calling out to his children, knocks on every neighbor’s door, and gets physical with anyone he suspects.

In fact, Darín’s character, Sebastián, is what makes this film worthwhile. The twists and turns were simply not enough to engage. The story falls flat, with important details left unanswered. It seems Séptimo didn’t quite cover all of its bases.

Before mentioning Fading Gigolo and its main character, Fioravante, I should mention the character of John Turturro himself. The director, writer, and lead actor of the film, Turturro sat down with renowned film critic David Edelstein before the screening for a short Q&A. In this interview, Turturro described his experience coming up with the story and organizing it into a reputable screenplay, as well as his relationship with Woody Allen, both professionally and on a personal level. And when asked a number of unsettling questions, such as the recent allegations against Allen, Turturro handled the situation in a professional manner, stating that he had nothing to discuss on the matter because–simply put–it was none of his business.

On to the main character in the film: Turturro plays Fioravante, a manly man, as Sofia Vergara’s character implies, who has been coaxed into sleeping with women for money by Murray (Woody Allen), his old friend and now pimp. Though not a likely candidate for a gigolo in terms of his physique, Murray convinces him that he has a “sex appeal” about him and that he’d be perfect for the job. At first, Murray seems to be the highlight of the film, with the typical Allen humor and his endearing nature, but Fioravante raises intrigue as he enters his new profession with surprising ease and poise. And yet, his humanistic characteristics quickly reveal themselves as a moral question arises: the vulnerability of their female clients and whether or not they are taking advantage of them.

Besides its upstanding story, Fading Gigolo also comes with an outstanding cast (Sharon Stone and Liev Schreiber are in it, too!), as well as an Allen-esque soundtrack. Unfortunately, there are no more showings at the festival this year, but I would urge anyone to watch it. —Anna Xiques


Jaie Laplante

Jaie Laplante is the Miami Film Festival's executive director and director of programming. Learn more about Jaie on Programmers.