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Italian cinema on American shores.

Italian cinema on American shores. (photo)

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There’s never been a better time to indulge in a little Italian cinema, at least if you live on the coasts. For New Yorkers, that’s meant classics from the likes of Visconti, Rossellini and Pietro Germi at the Italian Neo-Realism series at the Lincoln Center, and a new 35mm print of Vittorio De Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief” at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

If you live on the west coast, mid-November means Cinema Italian Style in Los Angeles and New Italian Cinema in San Francisco and Seattle, where contemporary crime thrillers and comedies straight from Sicily have been the order of the day.

For some of these films, the latter three series will be the only times they’ll screen in the U.S. I still remember seeing Michele Placido’s spellbinding mafia saga “Romanzo Criminale” in 2006 and having to buy a crummy region-free, pan-and-scan Thai DVD for repeat viewings. So rare are the screenings that people at the Aero Theatre in Los Angeles applauded when it was announced that a screening of the recent Toronto hit “Giulia Doesn’t Date at Night,” a romantic dramedy starring Valeria Golino, was canceled because the film got a U.S. distribution deal.

Another film with a U.S. distribution deal, Marco Bellocchio’s “Vincere” is the closing night for the just-concluding L.A. festival and will play San Francisco on November 22nd, well in advance of its March U.S. release date. It’s the kind of grand, propulsive epic that justifies having its American title (“Win!”) translated with an exclamation point. Of course, the exclamation point is also a reference to the mantra of Benito Mussolini, whose rise to power obscures and eventually obliterates the existence of his first wife Ida Dalser and their son, Benito Albino, in order to reshape his public image.

11172009_Vincere.jpgFor Americans, the film will draw comparisons to Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,” as Dalser begins the film as a wide-eyed revolutionary willing to sell all her belongings and quite literally, the clothes on her back to help fund Mussolini’s newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia. She’s rewarded for her devotion with a trip to the mental asylum, where she’s separated from her young son and will introduce herself as the wife of “Il Duce” to anyone who will listen after all her official government records have been wiped out by the dictatorship. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is fearless in the role of Dalser, though her scheduled appearance in Los Angeles was cut because she fell ill, leaving her co-star Filippo Timi to pick up the slack, which he did ably with stories of cramped hotel rooms in Cannes and working with George Clooney on the upcoming Anton Corbijn thriller “The Assassin.”

The other film to overlap between Los Angeles, San Francisco (where it will play on November 19th) and Seattle (where it will play November 21st) is “The Sicilian Girl,” a credible potboiler from writer/director Marco Amenta, who adapted his own documentary into a thriller about Rita Atria. The 17-year-old daughter of a mafia don, Atria turns to the police after the murders of her father and brother to bring down the crime syndicate whose drug ring operations involve the local mayor. The film largely resembles a Hollywood B-picture of the 1940s, and lead Veronica d’Agostino does her best impression of Susan Hayward as the young woman facing incredible odds (even her mother tells her that she wanted to have an abortion), retaining only a clenched forehead as she moves from town to town as part of the witness protection program awaiting her chance to testify in court against the mob.

Even if you’re not a Californian, Cinema Italian Style and New Italian Cinema schedules offer a worthwhile primer of some off-shore titles to keep an eye out for.

[Photos: “The Sicilian Girl,” Roissy Films, 2009; “Vincere,” IFC Films, 2009]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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