The Last Kiss (Italian)

“The Last Kiss” (“L’Ultimo Bacio”) was one of Italy’s most acclaimed movies in 2001, and perhaps it will follow in the recent footsteps of “Cinema Paradiso” and “Life is Beautiful” to become beloved in America. It is not as good as either of those movies, but it does share their love of grand visuals, fine musical scores and whimsical scenarios.

“The Last Kiss” centers on Carlo (Stefano Accorsi), who at 29 1/2 is having his mid-life crisis. Or perhaps it’s his pre-life crisis: His girlfriend Giulia (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) is pregnant and they’re about to be married. But he’s stuck wondering if he’s not entitled to some more fun before the drudgery of family life begins.

His is egged on by his friends. There is Adriano (Giorgio Pasotti), already married to Livia (Sabrina Impacciatore) and not at all happy with having a 6-month-old baby to care for. There’s also Paolo (Claudio Santamaria), who is in one relationship but still pines for a previous one. And then there’s Alberto (Marco Cocci), a dredlocked ladies’ man who is perhaps the least-responsible person on the planet. When a friend of theirs gets married, Carlo, Adriano, Paolo and Alberto curse him like he’s just passed state secrets to the enemy.

His friends not being supportive of his impending marriage, Carlo is left to his own devices, and he happens to meet an 18-year-old hottie named Francesca (Martina Stella), who has a serious crush on him. Whether he should succumb to her advances is his great dilemma.

Meanwhile, however, his future mother-in-law, Anna (Stefania Sandrelli), is in a stifling marriage and wants some adventure. Combine that with Carlo’s longings, Paolo’s indecisiveness, Adriano’s wife and kid and Alberto’s loveless sex life, and you’ve got a movie about people who think the grass is always greener in someone else’s bed. We think we want something else, we tiptoe around it, and we realize we want what we had in the first place. We all have to grow up eventually.

They’re passionate people, these Italians. As depicted by writer/director Gabriele Muccino (and, indeed, as verified by friends of mine who have lived in Italy), the Italians spend a lot of time yelling at each other and having sex with each other. In this film, the invention of the cellphone has proven to be quite useful, as it allows the characters to yell at more people, more often.

Muccino has an appealing style (though he does let the proceedings go on for longer than they need to), and clearly loves his characters. The film has a sense of whimsy about it, as if the whole thing is a droll joke, but the people in it are not the butt of it. They are merely representatives of all of us, mired in the quandaries of everyday life. Paolo Buonvino’s lovely musical score and Marcello Montarsi’s cinematography add to the affectionate tone of the film.

The acting is solid throughout, notably from leading man Stefano Accorsi and Stefania Sandrelli as Anna. Both perform with dignity and grace, allowing their situations to be both funny and touching.

The more I think of this film, the more I have fond memories of it. It’s Muccino’s warmth again, making us feel like we know and identify with these people, no matter how far removed we may be from their particular plights. Consider it another high-quality cinematic achievement from a country already rich with them.

A- (; R, frequent harsh profanity, some strong sexuality, brief partial nudity.)