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(Aug 05, 2003)
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International sensation Asia Argento and legendary actor Michel Piccoli star in this fascinating tale of encounter and self-discovery, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Peter Del Monte INVITATION AU VOYAGE.
Cora (Argento), an attractive, unstable girl in her teens with no stable job or home, is hired by a rich woman to follow her forgetful father (Piccoli)throughout Rome and beyond. As the old man makes pointless trips across Italy, Cora unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery, dealing with past memories, and colorful encounters. Unable to deal with the old man's delirium, Cora wanders off on her own, becoming involved with various men and evading her low-life brother's plans to kidnap the old man for ransom. Lost in despair, Cora abandons the pursuit and returns to Rome, where an accidental encounter lifts her spirits.
Beautiful locations in Italy and stunning performances by Argento and Piccoli make TRAVELING COMPANION an unforgettable emotional ride.
Best Actress, Italian Academy Awards
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The problem lies not so much in mustering the ability to love, since Cora certainly loves her brother (who's even more awful than she is), as in the difficulty of finding someone who can appreciate the gift: and for all that he has lost his powers of cognition, the professor retains his gentility and affection for others. He is the best of Italy, with his surprising and transformative response to Nappa's duplicitous introduction: he perceives the essential lovableness of the young man's soul (a concept simply, explicitly and most daringly introduced halfway through the film) beneath its surface ugliness.
In addition, an early allusion to the professor's interest in "Cyrenaic bee-keeping" may serve to underscore the themes of (1) the primacy of immediate experience, i.e., "living in the moment," a principle of the Cyrenaic school of philosophy (4th-3rd centuries BCE), which is rather ironically exemplified by the effects of the professor's dementia; and (2) a concern for social order, of which bee-keeping is an established symbol. (The subtext here is Vergil, *Georgics* IV 315ff., in which Aristaeus, a healer-deity and son of Apollo and Cyrene, laments the death of his hives.)
Back to cinema. Those who insist on watching films with the sound off -- that is, the purists who believe that a film is only as good as its images -- will find some unforgettable pictures in this film: "il professore" striding purposefully, in his dementia, across the piazza at Carpi; leaping into a field of wheat, bird-cage held high in one hand, with Cora following, cursing, jerked along after him as if on an invisible thread; and the discovery of a lighted, luxurious tennis-court in the rain-soaked middle of nowhere (I'll bet Fellini would have loved that).
While the film doesn't seem explicitly to quote the "rich trove" (excuse the cliche) of Italian cinema (as far as I could tell, and I didn't recognize the Ingrid Bergman movie), I got a kick out of some apparently incidental correspondences -- hanging out of train windows, cf. Germi's "Divorce Italian Style"; and more to the point, the final scene in a train station, with church-like imagery in evidence (but in a happy ending, not sad), cf. Zurlini's "Girl with a Suitcase." The constant call of an owl in the scenes in the countryside put me in mind of Fellini's "Giulietta of the Spirits."
I also suspect that the song "Compagna di Viaggio," by Mina, the diva of modern Italian canzoni, must have some resonance for the movie, but my Italian's not good enough to parse the text without a dictionary.
Also, the film score was above-average -- not Nino Rota, but not bad, either. Nicely comic in tone.
All in all, this is an "underdetermined" treatment of a story, but for Italian movie buffs it's well worth watching.
This movie sort of fits that bill, but not really. It is an Asia Argento vehicle, no doubt, but you don't have to feel guilty watching it in the same way guys who can't get enough of Jessica Alba feel ashamed to sit through "Honey." Why? Because, while this is a vehicle for Argento, and she is of course at her devastatingly hottest with her dark, wasted Mediterrenean good looks and haunting, bruise-eyed gazes, there is actually a movie of some real substance here.
The plot goes that Asia plays a 19 year old girl named Cora who works odd jobs, and leads a feckless and bohemian lifestyle in Rome. The woman whose dog she walks pays her a lot of money to follow her father, a retired college professor who may be going senile. She wants Cora to follow the old man because he is stubborn, and refuses to be put into a nursing home, and on his own, he wanders around and gets lost and confused. So if he does so, Cora follows him and calls them up so he can be safely retrieved.
Well, things take a turn when the old man start catching seemingly random buses to locations all over the Italian countryside, and Cora is instructed to follow him. She ends up being gone for days, and we're taken along on a journey of learning, growing, and understanding with the two of them as they interact with their environments.
A few people have complained that this movie doesn't have a point. I would beg to differ. The thing is, this movie doesn't wear its morals or lessons on its sleeve like many movies do. It doesn't come right out and tell you how everyone in the movie has changed, or what they are thinking, or what they've learned. That's up for you to decide through their experiences, reactions, dialogue, and body language. This movie isn't like the American television show "The Wonder Years," where at the end of each show, the narrator says "Gee, I learned a lot today, and grew a lot today, here's how." Decide for yourself. The movie, in my opinion, is not obvious about it, but neither is it hopelessly obtuse.
I'd give this movie a 7/10, but bump it up to 8 out of 10 for Asia fans. I believe it had a few problems - it could have been more tightly written, and the pacing is tricky in movies like this which engage the viewer to think more with a sparse plot heavy on characterization - but it's still a fine movie.
About the DVD and technical aspects, I wish I could be as generous. As others have said, a lot of the translating and subtitling is, to be frank, not good. There are pretty much no notable extras to this movie, but that's understandable given its limited audience.
Perhaps most unforgiven is
When Cora finds a picture of herself the old man took that he had slipped into her belongings. On the back of it he wrote a message, and the people subtitling the movie DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER TO SUBTITLE THE MESSAGE. That is really unforgivable. If it helps anyone out there, I've taken 4 semesters of Italian, and I'm 99% sure it says "For my traveling companion." The problem is that the handwriting on the back of the photo is quite bad, so it's difficult for me to read and be 100% certain. Anyway, I hope that helps anyone who was wondering.
So in conclusion, I'd recommend this movie if you like low-key foreign films, and especially if you're an Asia Argento fan.
Don't waste your time or money.