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Video Essay. Manic Moretti

In three early comedies, writer-actor-director Nanni Moretti plays Michele Apicelli, a self-loathing, abrasive egotist and film fanatic.
Philip Brubaker
MUBI's retrospective Moretti's Comedies is showing from June 24 - July 26, 2017 in most countries around the world.
In three early comedies, I Am Self-Sufficient (1976), Ecce bombo (1978), and Golden Dreams (1981), Nanni Moretti plays Michele Apicelli, a self-loathing, abrasive egotist and film fanatic.  Moretti also wrote and directed himself, and he brings an incisive approach to examining a character that is fun to watch at times, yet who is lost and perpetually unhappy.  This character has the ambition of being a great filmmaker, yet he is dogged by his critics.  The Michele character is quite consistent across all three movies, and harkens back to peak Woody Allen days of playful cinematic invention and self-examination.  Moretti's films have a joyously anarchic spirit, especially when he uses metaphorical visuals to argue his points, and the films' pacing is still breakneck so many years later.
While all three Moretti comedies in this video essay are politically charged to Italy of the time, the approach I took is in analysis of the Michele character.  His sudden anti-social outbursts, narcissism and screaming fits are classic examples of an artist in the throes of a manic episode.  Following these impulsive tantrums comes the inevitable depressive crash, as his boisterous energy gives way to melancholy.  Manic Moretti is a capsule of Michele's bipolar temperament. Just as a chemical imbalance inspires artists to create, so it causes Moretti's creation to cycle between confidence and despair.  The uncertainty of youth and the longing to transcend one's limitations fuels these three comedies and reminds us of a time when the cinema was an engine of transformation, both for the filmmaker and their audience.

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