Review: The Italian recipe – Cineuropa

– Zuxin Hou’s romantic comedy, shot in the Rome of fairy tales, is aimed at the Asian market but could also find success in Europe

Liu Xun and Huang Yao in The Italian recipe

Cinema renews and reinvents itself with its own magic, and therefore a 2.0 version of the timeless classic roman holidaysupdated in the age of social networks and influencers, is possible, with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck replaced by two equally romantic young Chinese comedians, Liu Xun and Huang Yao. The Italian reciperealized by Zuxin Hou, is an unusual Italy-China-Germany co-production which, after its premiere at the 24th edition of the Far East Film Festival in Udine at the end of April, will be released on 9,000 Chinese screens (9,000, you read that right) on June 3 during the first real weekend of reopening of cinemas in China since the recent confinement. It will then land on the VOD Youku platform following its theatrical release.

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This comedy shot entirely in the Italian capital – with the protagonists wandering with ease on a Vespa, on foot or, alternatively, aboard a luxurious Maserati, from the Colosseum to the Imperial Forums, the Trinità dei Monti, the Trevi Fountain or by alleys of Trastevere — tells a simple but not trivial story, enriched with a good dose of light irony, thanks to the screenwriters of the film, namely the director and Cristiano Bortone (who is also the Italian producer), Albert Simone and Yu Si, which are inspired by the novel Un amore a Roma by Simone himself. Peng is a young Chinese pop star who lacks something to really enter the Olympus, that is to say the top of KuGou (the Chinese Spotify), like his counterpart Axun. Peng is an excellent musician but involved in the trashy cogs of the pop industry, totally dependent on his social media reputation and the fluctuating moods of fans. To win back public favor and bring him back into the media spotlight (and attempt to “reshape his image”), his agent Pete (Wu Yingzhe) signed him up for a reality show that will be filmed in Rome alongside a famous influencer.

It goes without saying that in Rome, a chance encounter with “Cinderella” will change her life. Mandy is the opposite of Peng: she lives with simplicity with her uncles (Fann Woon Fong and Li Xiaochuan), who run a Chinese laundromat and are convinced that their beloved niece is studying law at university with great success.

But the indefatigable one does a thousand jobs, including that of replacing his friend Antonio (Romano Reggiani) as a driver for VIP clients, and his secret dream is to become a chef like his idol Antonino Cannavaccioolo. His first contact with Peng was hostile, but after a thousand misunderstandings and unforeseen events (including encounters with the amusing characters of the filmmaker and the wealthy financier, respectively entrusted to Liu Di and Shi Yang Shithe latter being a naturalized Italian actor), the two will live their enchanted night between the sacred walls of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, accompanied by the evocative music of a great maestro like Ennio Morricone and while the rest of the city is glued in the Italy-Germany football final.

The ingredients of the perfect “Italian recipe” are all there: art and beauty, well photographed by Vladan Radovicgood music (Santi Pulvirenti signs the soundtrack while director Hou is the author of the last track played by Peng), tasty food and good wine, famous brands (which we could have done without) and a sense of humor that transcends the hybrid nationality of the film to touch on something universal, like the message of the film: to pursue one’s dreams, to escape the empty and superficial appeals of the deceptive sirens that today enchant young people everywhere. Designed for the Asian market, this sentimental comedy could also meet with success in Europe.

The Italian recipe was produced by Orisa Produzioni, Dauphine Film Company, Free Age Pictures, Beijing WD Pictures and Lightburst Pictures, with Rai Cinema, Arri China, Yiyi Pictures. Mahua Fun Age will distribute the film in China.

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(Translated from Italian)