By Myriam Ghattas
“Manuale D’Am3re” (The Ages of Love, 2011) is a triptych of three love stories told by an observant and meddlesome Cupid (Vittorio Emanuele Propizio) officiating as a taxi driver of love. The stories represent the different ages, or stages, at which humans find and develop love relationships: Youth, maturity and beyond.
Giovanni Veronesi, co-writer and director, adds three new chapters to his on-going “Manual of Love” with (Manuale D’Am3re) being the third sequel made by the director in that series.
In “Youth”, Roberto (Riccardo Scamarcio) is engaged to Sara (Valeria Solarino) and well on his way to becoming a successful lawyer. He is sent by his law firm to a small village in Tuscany to negotiate the settlement terms over a land dispute with its proprietors. Roberto cannot wait to return to his life in the city and to his fiancée but that plan does not take into account Cupid’s mischievous sense of fun. When he meets the beautiful Micol (Laura Chiatti), Roberto is tempted to risk losing everything he had worked for in life in order to be with her.
“Maturity”, as it turns out, is just as tricky an age for love as youth was. Fabio (Carlo Verdone) is a star television newscast presenter who has settled into his middle-aged years quite serenely, comfortably surrounded by his loving wife and daughter. Fabio meets Eliana (Donatella Finocchiaro) at a party under unpleasantly wet circumstances. She seduces Fabio, who had been faithful to his wife all these years, by convincing him that a fling never hurt anyone. Fabio’s life takes a complicated turn when his “fling” refuses to go away.
And just about when you think you have made it to safety past all of Cupid’s love-filled arrows, his astute archery catches you yet again. Saving the best for last, the “Beyond” segment brings two beloved movie icons together on screen for the first time. Adrian (Robert De Niro) is a professor of American History who has lived in Rome since his divorce. He has found a friend in the person of his concierge, Augusto (Michele Placido). When the latter’s daughter, Viola (Monica Belluci), comes for an abrupt visit from Paris, Adrian’s (transplanted) heart that had not beaten for anyone in a long time picks up its pace.
“The Ages of Love” — which screened this week as part of the 4th Panorama of the European Film — is a romantic comedy that entertains but fails to leave a lasting impression. The stories seem to go on for much longer than necessary even if they are fun to watch. Veronesi makes a feeble attempt to link the three stories together but the links are too random to convince as none of the characters from a given story leave a significant impact on the ones from the other two. The filmmaker also opts at certain moments in the third narrative to use voice-over ruminations by De Niro’s character, Adrian, in English no less, which feels intrusive and unnecessary.
Possibly the biggest ailment from which Veronesi’s film suffers is its macho presentation of what purports to be mini-lessons on love. The three stories are all told from the point of view of the male characters. Granted that the filmmaker cast performers who are easy on the eye, it remains a little hard to imagine the impetus that would drive the beautiful women who throw themselves at them so forcefully and blindly to actually do so.
It is a matter of complete mystery how Veronesi managed to sell such a script to De Niro and Belluci, without whose charisma, and the weight of their combined cinematic histories, the third story would have flopped miserably. It is no doubt their names that have drawn in the vast international audiences that flocked to see the film this year.
Veronesi uses just about every cliché in the book which makes his stories’ development all too predictable. Yet the film oozes with a certain Italian charm and light-heartedness and some scenes — in fact Fabio’s entire story — are truly hilarious thanks to the unbridled energy and verve that the cast brings to them.
The single best image to take from “The Ages of Love” will be that of a strip-dancing Bobby De Niro. This image alone is certainly worth the price of admission.
For more information about the Panorama of the European Film, visit http://www.misrinternationalfilms.com/inner.aspx?SID=22&LangID=1