Italy has been bestowed a wide range of superlatives: most stunning cultural attractions, oldest civilization, and, for sure, best pizza. But what might not immediately spring to mind is Italy’s vast catalogue of entertainment. You may know Fellini, but he’s just one guy. The country has been filled with creators who’ve made countless outstanding films and TV series over the decades, including some especially exciting contemporary titles. With a history as long as Italy’s, you can be sure that one thing the Italians excel at is storytelling. Here are six titles on Topic from the Bel Paese.
“Made in Italy” takes place in Milan during a time of revolution, for Italy, for fashion, and for women — one woman in particular. The series follows Irene, a journalism student who’s always done what’s been expected of her, from her parents, her boyfriend, and society. But she’s embracing the turning point in history, so out with the old ways. Irene takes a job at a top fashion magazine and uses her endless savvy to work her way to the top, learning about Italian fashion straight from the greats, like designers Ottavio Missoni, Mariuccia Mandelli, and Gianni Versace. Adding a colorful backdrop to Irene’s story is Milan in the 1970s when the streets were filled with protesters in brown leather boots and velvet blazers. Viva la rivoluzione!
Based on real events, this political thriller follows six people whose lives are intertwined by the Mani Pulite investigation that radically changed Italy’s political landscape in the ‘90s. In 1992, Milan launched the investigation into Italy’s widespread political corruption, ultimately resulting in the end of the First Republic era, the dissolution of several political parties, and the rise of media magnate Silvio Berlusconi. The triple threat of political intrigue, complex characters, and solid writing has drawn the show comparisons to “House of Cards” and “The West Wing.”
Meeting your partner’s mother for the first time is already nerve-racking enough, but what happens when you throw in a few deeply disturbing secrets? Juliette Binoche plays Anna, who’s meeting her son Giuseppe’s girlfriend for the first time. When Giuseppe is delayed, the two women start bonding in unexpected ways, but as time goes on, Giuseppe’s absence starts to call into question what each woman is hiding from the other. “L’Attesa” is an exercise in visual storytelling using not much more than the subtle expressions and emotional tension created by two fine actresses.
Part documentary and part ethereal fantasy, “Lost and Beautiful” starts with the true story of Tommaso Cestrone, a local hero who took on the task of looking after the abandoned Royal Palace of Carditello, which once belonged to the Neapolitan Bourbon Monarchy, and turns into something unexpectedly poetic. When Cestrone has a heart attack, he summons a mysterious masked man named Pulcinella and makes a final wish right before he dies: he asks him to rescue a buffalo calf named Sarchiopone from the palace and to give him a voice so he can tell his story. Together Pulcinella and the calf travel through the bucolic countryside, evoking a lost and beautiful Italy that gives the film its title, while the 16mm film lends the mystical tale an even more dreamlike quality.
Italy’s Catholic heritage has been the inspiration behind some iconic films and shows — “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Young Pope,” and “The Exorcist,” to name just a few. And “The Miracle” (originally aired as “Il Miracolo”) deserves a place among them. From the producers of “The Young Pope,” the series opens with the discovery of a Madonna statuette weeping human blood that holds the power to change lives, societies, and maybe even the human race. The thriller follows the power struggle between the mafia, the government, the Catholic Church, and scientists as they all fight to control the so-called miracle.
Nestled in the remote Italian countryside, a family of beekeepers are struggling to survive with their archaic lifestyle, but at least they have their peace and quiet. That all changes when a reality TV crew shows up and tries to recruit local farmers to participate. Presented by Milly, played by the inimitable Monica Bellucci, the reality show aims to celebrate ancient Etruscan culture, but the style of the program does not exactly share the same spirit of the quiet community. Through all this sudden commotion, the family’s eldest daughter, Gelsomina, is trying to navigate her way through adolescence and find her place in the world. “The Wonders” is at once a realistic coming-of-age story, an intimate portrait of a family, and, much like the goal of its fictional show, a celebration of modern Tuscany and its Etruscan roots.