The Missing Star

Director: Gianni Amelio

After stealing our hearts with his role in Mostly Martha, Sergio Castellito starred in this Venice Film Festival award winning film by director Gianni Amelio that has drawn numerous comparisons to Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. In The Missing Star, Castellito who also starred in Va Savoir, The Last Kiss and Paris je’taime plays Vincenzo Buonavolanta (whose name according to Variety actually means goodwill). Vincenzo, a handsome, contemplative maintenance worker, travels to China after failing to convince brokers and their young translator of the potentially deadly structural flaw of an Italian blast furnace that they purchased from a closed steel mill. Once in the foreign land, he realizes he’s unprepared for not only the language and cultural barrier of his new surroundings but also the vast poverty and humanitarian issues he encounters after he manages to convince Liu, the young fired translator (Tai Ling) to aid him in his quest. At first, understandably reluctant to go on a wild goose chase looking for an unknown mill with the man who had cost her a job, Liu grudgingly goes along. Although Liu is initially secretive, soon we learn of her own personal struggles as they follow many wrong turns and dead ends while managing to bond during the voyage. As Variety’s Deborah Young noted, “armchair travelers will find paradise” in the “gliding camera” utilized in Luca Bigazzi’s sweepingly gorgeous cinematography and love of “deep focus panoramas” that make “every shot a knockout.” Based on Ermanno Rea’s novel, the film goes further in depth into both the emotional and literal journey of the characters than the book did, helping to strengthen the plotline and outline the importance of the plight. While the comparisons to Translation indeed seem warranted, unlike the admittedly self-obsessed characters in Coppola’s work that were going through identity crises on foreign soil, the two complex personalities in Missing Star seem more concerned with the bigger picture by their goal in trying to prevent death. Their attempt not only endears them more successfully to the audience but in addition makes the storytelling arc all the more rewarding, despite the slight vagueness of the ending that some critics disliked. One of the greatest and most deceptively quiet surprises of the 2007 Scottsdale Film Festival, this beautiful work drew comparisons to Don Quixote and Marco Polo in Variety’s assessment of its lead character and will hopefully find an even larger audience when the Lionsgate production is released on DVD.