Adapted from the screenplay by Italian author Alberto Simone A love in Rome (Love in Rome), The Italian recipe created in Udine Far East Film Festival April 22. The screening also marked the big-screen debut of Chinese director Hou Zuxin.
The Italian recipe is a Sino-Italian co-production stemming from the European association Bridge the Dragonit is efforts to promote audiovisual collaborations with China.
While the film was supposed to be released in China in May (before touring Europe), locks in progress across the country means an official release date has yet to be announced.
In The Italian recipe, the romance is served with a side of social satire. Expect a balance of sweet scenes, absurd comedy, and moments of introspection.
Set in Rome, the story follows Peng (portrayed by Liu Xun), a Chinese pop singer struggling to stand out in an increasingly competitive industry of celebrity. Accompanied by his agent Pete (played by Wu Yingzhe), who plays the hokey role of “token gay pal”, Peng travels to the Italian capital to participate in a reality TV show.
During the trip, Peng falls in love with his down-to-earth driver.
Sharp-tongued Mandy (played by Huang Yao), who has lived in Rome with her uncles since her mother’s death, is the yin at Peng yang. Unlike the wealthy, arrogant, pampered musician, Mandy studies hard to get into law school while working multiple jobs, including moonlighting in a kitchen.
After some initial misunderstandings between the two, a rather cliched story arc has them spending the night together wandering the streets of Rome.
As the two lovebirds hop from historic site to historic site, Agent Pete works to turn Peng’s disappearance into a lucrative opportunity by spreading rumors that a crazed fan has kidnapped him.
By highlighting celebrity culture in The Italian recipe, director Hou hopes to offer her own take on the phenomenon. Speaking at the Far East Film Festival, Hou recalled his competitive journey on one of China’s most popular films. talent shows, The Voice of China:
“I’m used to being around musicians and artists, and I feel like their talent is often wasted and their voices silenced because they have to follow their agents.”
Spoiler alert: Peng ultimately chooses the path of a low-key indie songwriter, reflecting the director’s belief that you can achieve success by staying true to yourself.
While the film’s chaotic mix of Italian-speaking Chinese actors, Chinese-speaking Italian actors, and broken English spoken by both parties makes one cringe, its most grumpy element is – by far – Pete. The effeminate, melodramatic agent clashes with the film’s contemporary vibe, and its tired depiction could be associated with the cheap humor of the past, when queerness equaled comedy.
However, Italian recipes Stunning cinematography and a unique soundtrack (jointly created by Hou and award-winning composer Santi Pulvirenti) make it a must-watch for East Asian rom-com aficionados.
All images are courtesy of the Far East Film Festival