The New Orleans Film-O-Rama (April 22-29) screens an array of European and indie films. Among the highlights are The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Roman Polanski's political thriller The Ghost Writer. Other films include The Messenger with Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, the Korean murder mystery Mother and Sundance Film Festival award-winner The Maid.
Marco Bellocchio's powerful Vincere (pictured) recounts the life of Ida Dalser, who became enamored with Benito Mussolini when he was a charismatic young socialist newspaper editor before World War I. They married and had a son, named Benito Albino Mussolini, but Dalser eventually learned that Mussolini was already married and had children. Throughout the turmoil of the period between the World Wars, Dalser pursued the ruthless El Duce, trying to win back his affection and have him acknowledge their son, as he and fascism rose to power. But he used his position to sweep her aside, and she found herself imprisoned, under psychiatric evaluation for claiming to be the wife of Mussolini and mother of his son and heir. Giovana Mezzogiorno is excellent as the heartbroken and desperate Ida Dalser. The film is in Italian with English subtitles.
Film-O-Rama also screens the documentary The Art of the Steal, which chronicles what amounts to the legal heist of the Barnes art collection, a private collection of priceless post-Impressionist paintings, early modern and African art. Dr. Albert Barnes personal collection has been estimated to be worth $25 billion. He housed it in his own gallery outside Philadelphia, and it was both envied and coveted by the city's art world. He set out very specific instructions in his will as to how the Barnes Foundation would operate. After he died, however, a quick succession of people in charge of the Foundation also died, and soon changes started to take place, clearly in violation of the spirit of its mission if not literally so. Soon, maneuvering by board members, politicians and art world luminaries had the collection bound for a Philadelphia location and purpose Barnes had explicitly opposed. Eventually questions about the legality of the changes rose, and the film offers a wealth of outrage about the nature of politics and the self-serving actions people will take when they administer vast resources that they don't actually own.
See the Web site for the complete film schedule. Individual tickets for films are $8.50, $6.50 New Orlean Film Society Members. — Will Coviello
Prytania Theatre, 5339 Prytania St., 891-2787; www.neworleansfilmfest.com