From a much-loved New Zealand movie to the artistry of Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, there's a wide range in Silvia Colloca's shortlist of favourites at SBS On Demand.
Colloca is returning to our screens with season 2 of her popular Cook Like An Italian series, where she's in the kitchen with her children, friends and neighbours, aiming to inspire more Australians to cook with the joyful, generous spirit of Italian food. SBS asked the multi-talented TV host (she's also an actress, opera singer and author of five cookbooks) for her favourites at SBS On Demand.
"To be honest, it was really hard to make a selection because there's just so much available that is just so beautiful," Colloca says. "I tried to keep it mostly Italian apart from a few titles, but I could have gone on and on. And I realised there's so much that I now want to watch, that I didn't know was available – for example, The New Pope, I haven't watched that one yet. I can't wait!"
Read on for her selection of series and movies, and to hear more about the new season of Cook Like An Italian (starting 8pm Thursday 8 April on SBS Food, with new episodes airing weekly and available at SBS On Demand the same day as broadcast).
The New Pope / The Young Pope
"You will have noticed I have selected quite a few of Paolo Sorrentino's works in my list. I think he's just a visionary director and he creates these worlds that are a bit hyper-realistic, but also really intrinsically connected to the now. I really enjoyed The Young Pope, a lot, and so I'm looking forward to this," Colloca says. "I haven't started it yet, that's on my wish list.”
The Young Pope, Sorrentino's thought-provoking, sumptuous and occasionally surreal vision of a near-future Catholic Church, starring Jude Law as the first American-born Pope, was an international sensation. The follow-up series, The New Pope, added John Malkovich to the mix, while continuing Sorrentino's masterful exploration of power and politics.
Or dive into The New Pope:
"You don't want to mess with that family!" says Colloca of this no-holds-barred take on the very real world of modern organised crime. Based on the book by Roberto Saviano, Gomorrah takes a look inside the machinations of the Neapolitan Camorra, an organisation just as deadly and powerful as the Mafia. "It's not for the faint hearted, but it's just one of a kind, amazing in all senses, from cinematography to the writing to the acting, and the fact that it's mainly in dialect. That is phenomenal. Sometimes I have to read subtitles myself because the Neapolitan dialect is so complex to grasp that I find myself needing a little bit of a translation. My brother put me onto the series years ago when it first came out, and it was too full-on so I just had to dip my toe in, I tried a few times to dip my toes in and then finally I got into it, and I just found it incredible. It's one of the most successful series ever coming out of Italy."
Seasons 1–4 of Gomorrah are streaming now at SBS On Demand. Start with Season 1:
"So, this stars someone you know!" we said, stating the obvious when talking to Colloca about this inclusion on her list: her husband, Richard Roxburgh, won an AACTA Award for Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a Television Drama for his role as the privileged father of a boy at the centre of the story. Also starring Asher Keddie, The Hunting follows four teenagers, their teachers and families involved in a nude teen online photo scandal. "It stars two people I know well," Colloca replies with a laugh. "Asher is a dear friend – and Richard is a dear husband! And he's terrifying to me in that series. I remember, when I was watching it, the vibe around the house was really weird and he said 'what is wrong?', and I'm like 'I don't really like you today because you're so mean in The Hunting'. It was so credible! The series is such powerful storytelling. And I think, to be honest, it should be shown in every high school … there's a fine line between silly fun and criminal activity; and things can stay and traumatise you forever. It's such a dangerous territory because it's not discussed enough."
The Great Beauty
In what the New York Times called "a deliriously alive movie", Paolo Sorrentino has created a stunning profile of the layers and lives of Rome. Writer Jep Gambardella (Tony Servillo) has charmed and seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades. But when his 65th birthday coincides with a shock from the past, Jep finds himself taking stock of his life, turning his cutting wit on himself and his contemporaries, and looking past the extravagant nightclubs, parties and cafes to find Rome in all its glory – a timeless landscape of exquisite beauty.
"I love the opulence of it. It's almost like Fellini flavour sprinkled throughout. And the cinematography. And just the scope of that huge Roman landscape," Colloca says. "I lived in Rome for a long time and that world is actually really small, that world of opulence and debauchery, but it's so enormous in the film. And then honestly, the performances are next level again. There's something that Paolo Sorrentino does to extract truth from his actors, he's a real master at that."
The Great Beauty is streaming at SBS On Demand:
Another from Paolo Sorrentino, Loro centres on the billionaire former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (another great performance from Toni Servillo) during a tumultuous period in his career, and the stories of various people striving to ingratiate or distance themselves. "Loro, oh, that is almost painful to watch," Colloca says, "because anything that depicts the Berlusconi era of Italian politics is just too close to home, not to feel, you know, cringe-worthy. But for that very reason, it's also hilarious, because I remember when I first started travelling out of Italy and talking about Italian politics to people in other countries they almost thought I was exaggerating. 'Oh come on, it can't be that bad.' I'm like, 'Yeah, no, it is, because we've got this guy who is just one of a kind, let's put it this way'. And then a lot of people thought, when the movie came out, that it was highly dramatised – and it was a bit – but only a bit! It's so corrupt, and kind of hilarious. I mean, almost like you'd think that this is stuff that would have gone on back in ancient Rome, not in the modern era. But yes, it did. And, again, it's the style of storytelling, I'm drawn by the artistry of it."
Loro is streaming at SBS On Demand:
The premise is clever (and widely appealing – there have been more than a dozen versions made around the world in the wake of this one, the Italian original from director Paolo Genovese): During a dinner party, seven long-time friends decide to share the contents of every text, email and phone call they receive. What happens to the friendships as secrets emerge?
"That idea is just phenomenal. Go to a dinner party, and everybody just hand over your phone, don't put them on mute, and whatever message or call comes through, everybody can read or listen. That'd be an interesting dinner party, wouldn't it!" says Colloca. And scary? "I guess so, it really depends on how people live their lives. For some people that would not be scary at all because they live completely transparent lives and relationships and for some other people, it would be the most terrifying thing to be truthful. And it doesn't necessarily mean that you've got deceitful things to hide, but maybe there are things about yourself that you're not willing to share with anybody, things about your own personality and what you like and what you don't like, that you're not ready for the people that are close to you to know about you. I find that really fascinating especially because I'm very transparent. So, I don't think there's many secrets, mmm, there's no secrets actually, with my husband and I in particular. And so I think we'd go to that dinner party knowing that we could enjoy it." And while there are some funny moments, Perfect Strangers is not just a simple comedy either," she says. "It's bittersweet. It's described as a comedy and there's definitely moments of hilarity but it's quite moving as well. And the performances are great; I love Valerio Mastandrea, he is one of my favourite Italian actors, he is always excellent."
Perfect Strangers is streaming at SBS On Demand (available until 31 May):
Run Lola Run
"When I saw that this was available, it brought me back to the '90s and when I first watched it. Everybody in Italy was mad about this film and everybody crushed on Franka Potente's performance. It just catapulted her to stardom level and what I remember most about the movie is her, and just how powerful and raw she was. And then I ended up spending quite a bit of time with her because she was the lead actress in Romulus My Father, which is a movie that Richard directed and so we spent two months in country Victoria together and she and I were hanging out a lot. And she's just a really intriguing person as well – but I could not help but be completely starstruck when I first met her!"
Potente plays Lola, a young German woman with 20 minutes to find 100,000 Deutschmarks after her boyfriend botches a money delivery; as the film rolls on at high speed, three separate possible scenarios play out, showing – along with flash-forward snippets from the futures of bystanders that Lola encounters – how small things can change the future.
Run Lola Run is streaming at SBS On Demand:
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
This widely loved New Zealand film, written and directed by Taika Waititi, follows a defiant young city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle in the wild New Zealand bush. Is this a family favourite? "It is! Oh man, honestly that movie… Okay, anything with Sam Neill is, like, I adore the guy in any guise, but that movie! The friendship between him and the boy and the adventure they go on and the characters that they meet, and the heartbreak at the beginning – I don't want to give things away but there's a heartbreaking moment towards the beginning of the movie. And the wild New Zealand landscape in the background. And the story of friendship and acceptance as well that underpins the movie. Definitely [a favourite], we've watched it multiple times with the kids."
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is streaming at SBS On Demand (available until 18 May):
PLUS SILVIA COLLOCA'S OWN NEW SERIES STARTS 8 APRIL
Cook Like An Italian
In the new season of Cook Like An Italian, Colloca takes us on a journey through regional Italy. From her kitchen bench, she shares recipes from across Italy, from her Nona's ragu in the first episode, devoted to the food of Emilia Romagna, to pasta varieties from across Italy and seafood favourites from the along the coast. Friends and neighbours join her in the kitchen, and her mother beams in electronically from Milan.
"It's shot in my actual house here in Sydney. We shot during the school holidays, a few months back, so my kids were around the house and so I got them sharing the stage with me and they get quite involved. And I got my Italian neighbours and friends coming over. It's very convivial. Of course we were miked and there were cameras, but as much as possible we kept it completely off-the-cuff, authentic, non scripted. We just wanted to capture real moments between people," she explains.
"Cooking like an Italian, it's more like a mindset, you know? You don't have to cook Italian food to cook like an Italian. I think it's more the attitude and buying whatever is in season and doing very little with the ingredients and sharing it, creating a moment. The food is there as an excuse for the gathering to happen but what's important is the gathering, and creating the memory and sharing."
Watch the 10-part series Cook Like An Italian with Silvia Colloca on Thursdays at 8pm from 8 April on SBS Food (Channel 33). Episodes will be available at SBS On Demand the same day as broadcast. Find recipes and more from the show at SBS Food. Find more from Silvia Colloca at her website and on Instagram; Cook Like An Italian is also on Instagram. Watch season 2 episode 1 here: