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CATERINA IN THE BIG CITY

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The more you know about contemporary Italian politics the sharper you'll find Paolo Virzi's social comedy. Still, if you don't know your New Right from your Communistas, there's Caterina's coming-of-age story with its familiar thrills and pains. She's a bright teen-age girl from the hinterlands who moves to Rome with her bitter, class-obsessed father. Caterina (Alice Teghil) tries on two competing cliques, with mixed results. One gang is made up of wealthy but grungy neo-hippies, the other is a pack of clothes-mad partiers -- and both are headed by compulsive, selfish and largely unsupervised alpha girls. It's Thirteen Italian Style, but without the prescient insight and shock value of that film. At times, it's a fun romp, though Virzi seems to suggest that Roma offers just two sorts of awful self-absorbed people, and that the goodhearted souls might just as soon return to the little fishing village to find humanity. In Italian, with subtitles. (AH)

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