Released with little fanfare on November 1, Ferzan Özpetek’s latest film, “Nuovo Olimpo,” adds a touch of Italian romance to Netflix’s diverse catalog. It may not have stormed the platform’s top 10 yet, but this depiction of a love affair between two men in Rome in the 1970s lingers in the hearts of those who have seen it. The romantic drama, a tender depiction of two men’s journey through the caves of memory and the streets of Rome, marks Özpetek’s first foray into the streaming giant.
Set against the backdrop of a picturesque Rome, “Nuovo Olimpo” is Özpetek’s intimate retrospective, a portrait of an era and a personal narrative. The film reveals the serendipitous love story of Enea and Pietro, whose romance blossoms in the least expected of Rome’s locations – the old Nuovo Olimpo cinema. Here, amidst the echoes of arthouse classics, their paths cross, setting the stage for a love as profound as it is complex.
Known for his cinematic flair, Özpetek brings a story that reflects his own experiences in Italy – a country he fell deeply in love with and chose as his home. This partnership with Netflix marks a significant turn in his career, as it is his first film to debut exclusively on a streaming platform. But even as Özpetek’s story unfolds on the small screen, it retains its cinematic heart and pays homage to the art of film itself.
The story, which spans decades, dives into the youthful passion of Enea, played with charismatic cool by Damiano Gavino, and Pietro, whose innocence and anguish are poignantly captured by Andrea Di Luigi. Luisa Ranieri’s Titti, the scene-stealing cashier, serves as a testament to the movie’s vivid character portrayals. Through her, we get a glimpse of the nuanced relationships and life pulsating within the walls of the Nuovo Olimpo.
Despite the film’s romantic veneer, it avoids slipping into the overly fantastical. Özpetek has admitted: “Everything we explore is always autobiographical in one way or another.” But he never intended the connection to be so direct. His narrative is grounded, presenting a plausible, if not entirely original, story about the lasting effects of love and the what-ifs that accompany a broken connection.
The performances are solid, with Gavino and Di Luigi bringing depth to their portrayals of Enea and Pietro. However, it is the supporting cast that unexpectedly steals the spotlight at times, adding texture to the central romance. The movie navigates the waters of explicit content with purpose, using it to enhance the story rather than simply to shock.
Critics may point out that the movie doesn’t break new ground in storytelling, with certain plot points bordering on the implausible. But its emotional power is undeniable. As we follow the lives of Enea and Pietro into their established careers and see how the memory of that brief encounter lingers, the movie maintains its grip on our emotions.
“Nuovo Olimpo” works on multiple levels-it’s a love story, a nod to the transformative power of cinema, and an exploration of memory. While the conflict that drives the protagonists apart may not seem insurmountable, the performances, especially from the leads, add depth to the film’s simple narrative structure.
The cinematography and musical score elegantly enhance the ambiance, ensuring that each scene resonates with the intended mood. While the plot may not be unprecedented, the craft behind it – the way the characters develop, the honesty in their interactions, and the depiction of Rome itself – is commendable.
For enthusiasts who admire a slow-burning, poetic movie with subtle tributes to the power of cinema, “Nuovo Olimpo” is a must-see. It may tell a story familiar to many, but it does so with such seriousness and elegance that it cannot help but capture the viewer’s heart. With Nuovo Olimpo, Netflix has indeed added a gem to its collection, one that may not shine the brightest, but certainly glows with a warm, nostalgic light.
Nuovo Olimpo (2023)
Genre: Romantic comedy
Original Language: Italian
Director: Ferzan Ozpetek
Producers: Tilde Corsi, Gianni Romoli
Writers: Ferzan Ozpetek, Gianni Romoli
Release Date (Streaming): November 1, 2023
Runtime: 1h 51m
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