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Mia madre

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Movies about making movies need to be smart and fun if they’re going to avoid getting sucked into the black hole of their own navels. And if they can’t be fun, then they better be awfully smart, and also soulful, and ultimately about something besides making movies. Like, say, the origin of the human impulse to create art. Or one human’s, anyway. (The phrase, “a momentary stay against confusion” comes to mind.) In director Nanni Moretti’s telling, director Margherita (Margherita Buy) always tells her actors to stand a little apart from their characters, so that she can see both. There is a reason for this, and it gradually becomes clear to both Margherita and the viewer as both her mother and her latest film near their wrap. (The film concerns a worker’s strike against cost-cutting new ownership, a test of endurance against the inevitable.) The general air of quiet intelligence throws the occasional outbursts of loud emotion into affecting relief, and John Turturro shines as the sort of unintentionally difficult star he doesn’t seem like he’d be in real life. (2015) — Matthew Lickona

Rated R | 1 hour, 46 minutes
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