Published Jan 31, 2013There's an old saying that life's too short not to be Italian. But according to Luca Ragazzi and Gustav Hofer, even la dolce vita isn't quite so sweet these days. "You have to focus on the beautiful aspects or you won't survive," admits Ragazzi. Indeed, plagued by social, political and financial strife, to say that Italy has suffered a fall from grace in the last decade would be an understatement.
While the filmmakers' previous documentary, Suddenly Last Winter, explored gay rights in Italy, it seems they've had enough of the motherland. Their latest effort, Italy: Love It or Leave It, is a meditation on whether they should stay or go.
Keep in mind that the only source of strife in the lives of Ragazzi and Hofer (an impeccably dressed couple working as journalists and filmmakers in Rome) is a potential relocation to Berlin, Germany. While Ragazzi, a Roman native, can't fathom abandoning Italy, Hofer questions what's left for them in a country he believes is self-destructing. To settle the matter, the duo rents a Fiat and embarks upon a six-month-long road trip across the country, visiting various cities while meeting Italy's problems head-on.
As their travels wear on, Ragazzi is convinced he'll change his partner's mind as they experience "the real Italy." The only problem is that the real Italy is at drastic odds with the picturesque sceneries and sweeping landscapes advertised to tourists.
The couple visits Naples, which might be famous for its cuisine, but is also grappling with a severe garbage collection problem. In Sicily, the farmers are terrorized by the Mafia. Meanwhile, up north in Lake Como, the pair admires the view, but is forbidden from swimming; it's the most polluted lake in the country.
Italy: Love It or Leave It also tackles more serious problems that have befallen the boot-shaped nation; mainly, its rambunctious ex-prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, whose "bunga bunga" scandal came to the forefront during the documentary's filming. Other topics include the ban on gay marriage, the struggling Fiat brand — workers are quietly being let go by the automaker — and the mistreatment of immigrant workers in the south.
Though it's unclear just how genuine the filmmakers' "dispute" is — they're better directors than actors — it becomes clear that Hofer presents a solid case for moving to Berlin. What hinders the documentary, however, is the vast amount of issues tackled in too short a time. Rather than focusing on a few of Italy's problems, Ragazzi and Hofer go through everything from the objectification of women to outsourced espresso machines at warp speed.
Paired with the lack of urgency behind the couple's relocation, Italy: Love It or Leave It feels more like a slap on the wrist rather than a heartfelt warning about life in Italy. (Kinosmith)