All hell breaks loose when an Italian man wants to name his son "Benito"

Alessandro Gassmann (left) plays Paolo, who announces his baby's name at a dinner party, and Luigi Lo Cascio plays Sandro, a liberal writer.
Alessandro Gassmann (left) plays Paolo, who announces his baby's name at a dinner party, and Luigi Lo Cascio plays Sandro, a liberal writer.PHOTO: ISTITUTO ITALIANO DI CULTURA
Francesca Archibugi.
Francesca Archibugi.PHOTO: ISTITUTO ITALIANO DI CULTURA

Be entertained and also see your life reflected in Italian director Francesca Archibugi's movies

What is in a name? Plenty, judging from Italian director Francesca Archibugi's comedy An Italian Name (2015).

A man at a dinner party declares that he has come up with a name for the baby boy he is expecting with his wife - Benito.

It is an appellation that evokes the spectre of the fascist leader Mussolini and causes an immediate uproar among those present, which include a liberal, bookish couple and a musician.

What starts off as a joke turns into a sharply observed portrayal of class and gender politics as secrets are spilt and friendships and relationships threatened.

The film is an adaptation of the play Le Prenom (literally, The Given Name), which was turned into a 2012 French comedy hit.

It is the opening salvo of the Italian Film Festival, which runs till May 1. Its screening today is by invitation only. Standard $13 tickets for the shows tomorrow and on Saturday at GV Plaza are available from www.gv.com.sg

  • BOOK IT / ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL

  • WHERE: GV Plaza, Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road, 07-01; National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road; The Projector, Golden Mile Tower, 6001 Beach Road, 05-00

    WHEN: Till May 1, various times

    ADMISSION: $13 (standard) from www.gv.com.sg, www.apactix.com (for Rocco And His Brothers and The Monsters) and theprojector.sg (for 8½)

    INFO: www.iicsingapore.esteri.it

In an e-mail interview, Archibugi, 55, says: "For years, I have been wanting to make a film that unfolds over one night, all in one room - a narrative archetype - dealing intensively with one of my greatest passions in cinema, which is the direction of the actors."

She was reportedly raised in Rome in an intellectual family, but she stops short of saying whether she drew on her personal experiences for An Italian Name.

Instead, she says: "In life, I have known many relationships that were shaken to the core due to hidden truths, but the beauty of the film is the rhythm and the timing - in short, there is no script in life."

While she was spotted on a street in Rome and went into acting first, she says: "From the beginning, I preferred what was going on behind the camera. As far as writing is concerned, I've been writing stories since I was a child: small tales and poems. I consider writing and directing one and the same, the exact same job with different techniques."

Archibugi, who is reportedly married to a musician, has been winning awards since her 1988 feature directorial debut Mignon Has Left, which was about teenage love. Her third film, The Great Pumpkin (1993), a drama about a young girl sent to a psychiatric clinic, was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes Film Festival, which tends to highlight newer directors and works more adventurous than those in the main competition.

Despite the variety of subjects she has tackled, she points out a commonality in her movies. "I am interested in the relationships between people in any context. The axis of all my films is the relations between human beings, their difficulties and their beauty."

Her influences are "the directors who have been champions of the truth of the staging", including Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu and French great Jean Renoir.

While she wants her films to amuse and entertain, she also holds them up as a mirror, "allowing the viewer to reflect about his own life while observing the lives of other people on the screen".

Do not expect her to magically solve society's problems, though. On the topic of why directing remains such a male-dominated domain, she says: "I do not know. The change will truly happen when people stop asking me this question."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2016, with the headline 'Her films are a mirror of life'. Print Edition | Subscribe