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An Italian actor's final triumph

June 14, 2004|Susan King

The Italian import "Facing Windows," which opens Friday, is not only a multiple award winner on its home turf; the drama marks the swan song of one of the country's legendary leading men, Massimo Girotti.

Written and directed by Ferzan Ozpetek, "Facing Windows" concerns an unhappily married young couple, Giovanna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and Filippo (Filippo Nigro), who discover a well-dressed elderly man (Girotti) wandering the streets in a confused state. Despite Giovanna's protests, Filippo brings the man home with the promise that he will take him to the police. But he doesn't, and soon the man's presence begins to have an effect on Giovanna's life.

Even with him in the apartment, though, Giovanna continues to gaze out a window to the flat opposite hers, where resides a handsome young bachelor (Raoul Bova). One night the bachelor helps Giovanna find the old man after he wanders off, and they begin a relationship. Meanwhile, the old man starts to put the pieces of his life back together.

In January 2003, Girotti died of a heart attack at age 84. A month later, "Facing Windows" opened in Italy and was a triumph for the actor. He posthumously won the David Di Donatello Award for best actor for his touching performance -- the only time in his career Girotti was nominated for the David.

A former athlete and engineering student, Girotti began in films in 1939 and quickly became one of Italy's leading heartthrobs and a favorite of such directors as Roberto Rossellini ("Desiderio"), Luchino Visconti ("Ossessione") and Bernardo Bertolucci ("Last Tango in Paris"). Although Girotti worked on more than 100 films and made countless TV appearances, "Facing Windows" was his first project in five years.

-- Susan King

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