Dr Marco Paoli (Italian Studies and Film) has recently published an article entitled “Modernità liquida, lavoro e identità in Baci e Abrracci di Paolo Virzì”. It appears in the book Un Nuovo Cinema Politico Italiano? (An New Italian Political Cinema?) published by Troubador Press, an edited collection which approaches contemporary Italian cinema from a social and political perspective. The book is the fruit of a recent AHRC-funded project on the same theme. In particular, Marco Paoli’s essay focusses on the film Baci e abbracci (Kisses and Hugs), directed by Paolo Virzi in 1999.
Several of Virzì’s films depict the difficult career prospects of Italians in a politico-industrial context where job security has been eroded, and Baci e abbracci relates the attempts of a group of ex-steelworkers to start a new business by opening an ostrich farm. Dr Paoli’s article examines Virzì’s depiction of the political and socio-economic problems faced by the aspiring entrepreneurs in Baci e abbracci, and the contrasting (and often contradictory) attitudinal perspectives traceable in the different social classes of Italian represented in the film.
While the film manifestly depicts the unbalanced relationship – in terms of power and influence – between social classes in its examination of the notions of authority (through characters such as the regional councillor) and submission (in terms of the three entrepreneurs who are socially more vulnerable), there is a degree of ambivalence in the attitudes of the ‘working class heroes’ with whom the film’s viewers are closely aligned.
The article shows the extent to which Virzì appears to emphasize the aspirations of these characters to attain some degree of power in order to be placed in a position of superiority, and dicusses the implications of this view of the proletarian psyche. In terms of genre and regional culture, the political implications of Virzì’s depiction of society through the filter of comedy and the concept of livornesità (the film is set in the Livorno region of Tuscany) are also considered. The essay also focuses on the contrast between reality and the individual’s search for illusionary happiness.