Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Facing Windows (La Finestra de fronte) (2003)
"You must demand to live in a better world, not just dream about it."- Simone (Massimo Girotti)
Stars: Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Massimo Girotti, Raoul Bova, Filippo Nigro
Other Stars: Serra Yilmaz, Massimo Poggio
Director: Ferzan Ozpetek
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sensuality
Run Time: 01h:46m:41s
Release Date: 2004-11-02
DVD ReviewItaly, 1943. Two men exchange glances across a darkly lit bakery. Mounds of dough and smatterings of flour lay about, in contrast to baskets full of freshly baked baguettes and rolls. For some unknown reason, tension mounts as the two wage a war of gazes and averted stares. Suddenly, one pounces, and a brutal brawl ensues. The fight is fierce, ending with blood and a scattershot dash down a glistening, wet cobblestone street. Fade to present day Italy, where life is much more tranquil on the same, formerly bloody road.
Walking along this familiar path is a married couple, already facing the bitter conflicts that result from complacency. Each takes the other for granted, but they have an undeniable connection. Nine years and two kids later, Giovanna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and her husband Filippo (Filippo Nigro) have become buried under the stresses and unending tasks of raising a family, but Giovanna seems to have a harder time handling things. She is a passionate spitfire of a woman, not afraid of conflict and raising her voice when necessary. When her more mild-mannered, working-class husband takes in a lonely old amnesiac (Massimo Girotti), she reaches the breaking point.
The elderly man's mind is failing, and his memories come and go. Slowly but surely, Giovanna warms up to her new houseguest Simone, who is kind hearted and generous, struggling with traumas endured during the Second World War. He is frank with Giovanna, wondering why she continues to work a dead-end accounting job in a local chicken factory, denying her true passion: baking. She makes pastries and pies for a local pub, who manages to sell only a few, but she enjoys the diversion. The kitchen grants her another welcome escape: her window faces the apartment of Lorenzo, a young man she watches intently. In the tradition of Hitchcockian voyeurism, she peers into his window, trying to catch a glimpse of his life.
He, too, is a voyeur, watching Giovanna unseen. Both peer through facing windows and pine for one another, wondering what could be. Lorenzo is a fan of Giovanna's baked goods, frequenting the pub where they are sold. When Giovanna heads to the police station to find Simone's home, the two finally meet, and are thrust into the hidden world of the old man. Mystery brings the two together, who act out of a combination of genuine concern for the old man and their undeniable feelings for one another. As one romance develops, the mysteries of another are revealed, leading to parallels between modern day and WWII-era Italy.
Ferzan Ozpetek's film is an absorbing romantic mystery that is a true visual gem. Flashbacks are beautifully intertwined within the stunning cinematography, using low-tech, but highly effective editing techniques. There are moments that immediately conjure images of a wheelchair-bound Jimmy Stewart with a telephoto lens, but this is not an homage film. Instead, Ozpetek tries to blend two substantially different love stories into one tale of romantic discovery. At times, this direction works very well, but the film tends to feel disjointed and contrived, forcing the talented cast to function within a constraining, somewhat tedious plot. It seems these two storylines are being forced together—each one on their own would probably make a more interesting film.
Massimo Girotti is effective as the elderly amnesiac, and his history reveals a little-explored chapter of the Holocaust. Giovanna Mezzogiorno's lead performance is riveting, no doubt aided by her otherworldly, jaw-dropping beauty. Though I love a good romance, I do find it difficult to sympathize and root for a relationship that would result in the destruction of a seemingly cohesive family. Giovanna's husband is by no means abusive or worthy of dumping, and this makes the idea of an affair harder to swallow; still, fine messages of redemption emerge. Regardless of some forced juxtaposition throughout, Ozpetek's visually engaging film has enough style and substance to keep one engaged—just don't press too hard on the glass.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Columbia's anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer is stellar. Detail is high, especially during the final shot, which is one of the most beautiful long takes I have seen. The film's rich colors are well preserved. Contrast is good, and the image has an occasionally soft appearance, but not excessively so. Minor print defects rarely appear. Well done.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The Italian Dolby 5.1 audio is wonderfully atmospheric, capturing the nuances of the European locations. Direction effects are surprisingly prevalent, such as the sounds of passing traffic and the voices of lost memories, all of which swirl between the split surrounds with precision. Dialogue is clear, as is the memorable musical score, which has fine presence throughout the entire soundstage. This is a fine mix.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
11 Other Trailer(s) featuring Respiro, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring, Young Adam, The Mother, Zhou Yu's Train, Head in the Clouds, She Hate Me, Touch of Pink, Monsieur Ibrahim, The Company, Bon Voyage
Extras Review: The only extras are the film's theatrical trailer, along with a collection of previews for the films listed above.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsFerzan Ozpetek's tale of romance and memory is visually stunning and boasts a strong cast, but gets lost on a contrived plot. This is still worth a rental. Though featureless, Columbia's presentation is adequate.
Matt Peterson 2004-11-01