Celebrating two visionary, blossoming careers in contemporary cinema, MoMA and Luce Cinecittà honor the Italian writer-director Alice Rohrwacher and the actress Alba Rohrwacher with their first North American retrospective. A Cannes prizewinner, Alice Rohrwacher introduces her three feature films—Corpo Celeste, The Wonders, and Happy as Lazzaro—as well as her little-known documentaries with Pier Paolo Giarolo, the film projections she created for her 2016 staging of La Traviata, and her fanciful confection De Djess, made for the fashion house Miu Miu. Her sister Alba Rohrwacher, considered “one of the finest actresses of her generation” by New York Times critic A. O. Scott, introduces the North American premiere of Ginevra Elkann’s If Only and the opening-night screening of Happy as Lazzaro. Her astonishing range is further evidenced by her award-winning collaborations with Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love and Part Deux), Marco Bellocchio (Dormant Beauty and Blood of My Blood), Laura Bispuri (Sworn Virgin and Daughter of Mine), Doris Dörrie (Bliss), and Saverio Costanzo (Hungry Hearts and The Solitude of Prime Numbers), among others.
When Oscar Wilde famously observed that “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” he might well have been speaking of the characters in Alice Rohrwacher’s films. Victims of genuine cruelty and cynicism, they also embody fairy-tale archetypes of goodness and wonder, finding escape through their imaginations, superstitions, and folkloric traditions. Rohrwacher envisions a place where Neorealism and Magic Realism coexist. The material world—whether of bees, children, or plants, a couture dress, a television, or an antique crucifix—seems to vibrate with those strange, elusive magical powers for which our conventional and comfortable understandings of time, language, and psychology offer little explanation. To evoke this world, Rohrwacher works regularly with a crew of brilliant artisans, including her cinematographer Helène Louvart, production designer Emita Frigato, and costume designer Loredana Buscemi.
Of her sister in The Wonders, Alice Rohrwacher has said that “Alba is an exceptional actress and perfectly embodies the role of this young mother, who is simultaneously strong and fragile like a metal wire.” Alba Rohrwacher radiates intelligence and sensuousness in all her performances. At once earthy and ethereal, she mines shopworn roles—the neurotic mother-to-be, the unhinged daughter, the sexually restless wife, the hooker with a heart of gold—for their rich possibilities of emotional and physical expression, while also making less familiar types, such as a woman who lives as a man, entirely her own.
Organized by Joshua Siegel, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, and Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero, Luce Cinecittà.