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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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Apollonia: The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned. 
<p>While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.</p><p>There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.</p> American Catholic Blog We can find Christ among the despised, voiceless, and forgotten of the world. We have to move beyond that which we wish to ignore and forget about: embrace the seemingly un-embraceable, love the unlovable, and dare to know what we most fear and wish to leave unknowable.

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