By Andrew Sandoval
Daily Cougar Staff
The Best Man, a movie by Pupi Avanti, is one of the best films playing at the moment.
At first glance the movie's scenario might seem to romanticize, but the acting and realism of the dialogue make the film very down-to-Earth.
Avanti portrays society as it is, with all its qualities and defects. Even though the film develops in northern Italy during the last days of the 19th century, people today will relate with the plot.
The Best Man is a celebration of life in which the characters struggle against conformity in the name of happiness.
Pasquale Rachini, the director of photography, presents beautiful images of luxury and nature that add artistry to the film.
In addition, the classical music of Riz Ortololani fuses perfectly with the melancholic and joyful plot.
The movie narrates a story about traditions and self-sacrifice. Francesca Babini (Ines Sastre) must marry a wealthy man to save the family from poverty. Even if she marries Edgardo Orsi (Dario Cantarelli), Francesca refuses to act like his wife.
Soon, the bride falls in love with the best man, Angelo Beliossi (Diego Abatantuono). She refuses her husband and pursues Beliossi. Everyone in the town creates tension for Francesca and Angelo, including Edgardo and Babini's families.
Angelo also feels attraction for Francesca, but puts it on reserve. He shyly responds to Francesca's affection after she confesses her love for him while all of the guests are looking on, and it becomes evident that Francesca has no regard for the opinion of the town.
In The Best Man, Sastre takes advantage of the opportunity she received to play a timeless and rich character. She marries, but refuses to give up her dreams. Even if society traps her character, she always fights for her happiness.
Sastre delivers an excellent performance with an impressive range of emotions. Her reactions to situations and other actors are spontaneous and constantly changing.
Diego Abatantuono also gives a superb performance throughout the film. Angelo finds it difficult to express his emotions and is extremely hard on himself. His sense of duty prevents him from leading a more rewarding life.
Abatantuono's acting technique is very subtle but effective. He speaks in a soft but masculine voice, always taking time to express his ideas.
During the wedding reception, Angelo delivers a very thoughtful and emotional speech that leaves the guests breathless. He uses his eyes and voice intonation to express emotions. His facial expressions are limited, but always very effective.
Aunt Pepina, another important character, is sentimental and melancholic. She shares Francesca's passion, but leads an incomplete life because Pepina never realized her dream of getting married.
When she gets a little drunk during the reception, her true feelings come out. In one scene, Mascoli delivers another impressive monologue full of realism expressing sadness for her present status, but joy for her past.
Edgardo personifies the man who always gets his way by using money and power to obtain his wishes. He represents the soon-to-disappear tradition of arranged marriages.
Cantorelli gives a strong performance as the man who uses his power and money to obtain what he wants from life.
The importance of religion in these people's lives stands out throughout most of the film. In one scene for example Francesca's Aunt Pepina sprays holy water on the bed while Francesca also applies holy water to her body as an act of purification.
Tradition also plays an important part in everyday life for the northern Italians. Before New Year's Eve is over, the natives travel with candles to visit the graves of their ancestors.
During the reception, a person is put in charge of calling out what each present is and the person who offers it. Children sing and dance around the bride and pretend to tie her with a white ribbon.
The Best Man speaks about the benefits of society. Families take care of each other, and the people from this affluent northern Italian town make long-lasting alliances and business deals. In other words, the society represents happiness, stability and prosperity for the town.
On the other hand, the film also describes the hypocrisy of society. Angelo makes a triumphant return to his town after his brother dies. In America, the Beliossis find fortune.
Now that Angelo is rich, people treat him very well. When he enters the church, everyone wants to shake his hand and talk business.
But back in Italy, the town resents his fortune and for this reason people talk behind his back. When Francesca refuses to sleep with her husband, the town assumes she is pregnant.
The film presents how society uses gossip as a way of punishing people who stand out from the norm.
The Best Man represents society with all its qualities and defects. The film speaks about the pressures of society and its possibilities of molding people's behavior, but it also shows how humans have the possibility of overcoming adversity. Ultimately, The Best Man shows how people can decide what to do with their lives and illustrates a positive view of humans and their capacity for enjoying life.