As much as we loved this movie, we have to admit that the DVD looks
terrible. With its hand-held 1:55 : 1 aspect ratio, the Dogme style
seems even less movie-like at home than it does on a big screen.
At 97 minutes, the DVD version is also significantly shorter than
both the US theatrical release (112 min) and the European version
(118 minutes). If you can make it past the initial shock though,
the interest in the characters and the story takes over and "Italian
for Beginners" begins to work its magic.
Romantic comedy--with its conventions of unblemished
star faces, swelling theme music, and gauzy lighting--seems like
an unlikely genre for a Dogme film, a pedigree that, after all,
calls for handheld cameras, no artificial light, no overdubbed music,
or any of the usual trappings of manipulative Hollywood cinema.
Even more thrilling, then, that Lone Scherfig pulls
off just that: a tremendously touching film about six loners who
find love. A bereaved pastor, a clumsy baker's
assistant, a hairdresser, a hotel manager, an angry waiter -- normal
people who struggle with loss (you need
both hands to count the deaths in this film) and try to find a ray
of light in their evening Italian classes at the community center.
The film is pitch-perfect in plumbing the depth of their pain before
it slowly allows for a remarkable recovery. "Italian For Beginners"
is an unfettered, honest potrayal of everyday people finding happiness.
It is all the more involving for its lack of obvious manipulation
-- and Meg Ryan is nowhere in sight.