in one of his finest performances
towards the evening of his legendary career.
Earning three awards including the prize for Best Film (shared with Mediterraneo) at Italy’s David di Donatello Awards is impressive enough for any filmmaker. However, when one takes into consideration that not only was Towards Evening co-writer and director Francesca Archibugi’s second film but also the fact that she managed to attract Federico Fellini’s legendary leading man Marcello Mastroianni as well as France’s gorgeous, versatile and award-winning Sandrine Bonnaire for her critically lauded work, it becomes a remarkable achievement on a number of levels.
A subtle, intimate period film about the complexities of human relationships, Best Actor winner Mastroianni gives a brilliantly restrained and quiet portrayal as the staunch, half-deaf academic Professor Bruschi. A widower who prefers to play his cello in a home-based chamber orchestra along with other Italian communists, Bruschi leads an orderly life filled with regimented schedules and a daily routine so exact that when he fails to show up for his daily shave at a local barbershop, the barber assumes he’s passed away. Still tinkering away at the same essay on Pushkin he’s been obsessing over for twenty-five years, Bruschi who more often than not prefers to lecture others and stay in and around the home he’s spent his entire life in, feels like an academic failure. Not to mention-- as things heat up in the late 1970s-- recognizing that he's a bit out of touch when he realizes how ambitious his former students are about the Italian political situation. However, while his old students find their lives concerned with political opposition and activism, Bruschi battles a rebellion of an entirely different kind.
Soon his studious life of solitude and scholarly pursuits are scattered to the wind as, in the opening minutes of Archibugi’s film Verso sera (which translates to By Nightfall in the opening subtitles), his four-year-old granddaughter is left in his care by her self-involved and indecisive parents who are barely able to take care of themselves, let alone a child. Dubbed "Mescalina" by her mother Stella (Bonnaire) as a nod to hallucinogenic mushrooms, the young girl renamed Papere (Lara Pranzoni) develops a close bond with her grandfather which becomes far more complicated when the passionate yet reckless Stella comes back into their lives.
Bittersweet and beautifully photographed, Archibugi’s gently romantic film is also filled with uniformly excellent performances including by supporting player Zoe Incrocci (who earned both a David di Donatello and Italian National Syndicate of Journalists award) for her role as the professor’s feisty and loyal longtime maid. Illustrating a deeply humanistic appreciation and understanding for her characters, Archibugi and her co-writers Gloria Malatesta and Claudia Sbarigia are able to craft fully realized individuals regardless of gender or age, showing a wisdom and maturity far beyond the director’s thirty-one years. A virtual cinematic valentine for its star Marcello Mastroianni in one of his finest performances near the end of his career, Towards Evening has just been released to the public courtesy of Koch Entertainment and SKD, in widescreen format, featuring an extra photo gallery on the DVD.