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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Nine

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

The stylish world of mid-1960s Rome provides the backdrop for the glossy but morally shallow musical drama "Nine" (Weinstein).

Director Rob Marshall's adaptation of Arthur L. Kopit and Maury Yeston's 1982 Broadway hit—itself an homage to Federico Fellini's classic autobiographical fantasy "8 1/2," released in 1963—is, like both its sources, the portrait of a man in creative and personal meltdown.

World-weary, yet as much a prey as ever to his own relentless desires, Fellini stand-in Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), although a celebrated film director addressed as "Maestro" by virtually everyone he meets, is on the rebound, when we first see him, from two flops. Worse, he has yet to write a word of the script for his latest work—grandly entitled "Italia"—despite the fact that it's about to go into production.

As Guido scrambles to conceal his artistic dry spell, he also struggles to maintain the tangled relationships that complicate his private life. These include his marriage to much put-upon former actress Luisa (Marion Cotillard), his longstanding affair with sultry but unstable Carla (Penelope Cruz), his on-again, off-again tie to favorite leading lady and muse Claudia (Nicole Kidman) and his friendship with sensible costume designer and confidante Lilli (Judi Dench).

Also thrown into the emotional mix are the ghost of Guido's loving earth-mother Mamma (Sophia Loren) and—very much alive and kicking—flirtatious visiting Vogue journalist Stephanie (Kate Hudson).

Despite the occasional acknowledgment of the damage wrought by Guido's philandering, as penned by Michael Tolkin and the late Anthony Minghella, "Nine"—which mostly treats adultery as a symptom of sophistication—amounts to a celebration of its hero's long and busy sexual career.

As established in an extended flashback, this carnal chase dates back at least to the day when, as a boy, he led a party of his peers down to the local beach to ogle a willing display of flesh put on by the town prostitute Saraghina (Stacy Ferguson, aka Black Eyed Peas vocalist Fergie).

This escapade earns him a rebuke from Mamma and a caning by a priest (read: agent of the overly powerful, sexually repressive Catholic Church). Moving from the tyrannical to the hypocritical, as an adult, Guido encounters far friendlier cleric Don Mario (Michele Alhaique), who blithely assures him that, although the church condemns his films, the clergy all love them.

Rounding things off by demonstrating the church's irrelevance, Don Mario's boss, a star-struck cardinal (Remo Remotti) whom Guido presents with a photo of Claudia signed in lipstick, can offer the maestro some poetic advice—"The imagination is God's garden," he observes—but, as for answers or solutions, he has none to give.

The film contains a pervasive negative portrayal of Catholicism, brief nongraphic adulterous sexual activity, recurrent adultery theme, partial upper female and rear nudity, a couple of uses of profanity and a few crass terms. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

******
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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