Summer, 1971. The youthful, stunning Anna Nigiotti is dubbed Miss Mamma of Livorno's most famous bath house. Unaware of rousing the unwelcome attention of the male population; the suspicions of her husband Mario; the hidden embarrassment of her son Bruno. Today. Ever the heartthrob - despite her terminal illness - Anna blows the doctors away with her irresistible, contagious verve. Bruno, instead, has burned all bridges with his hometown, his family, his past. A passionless teacher in a trade school, he leads an obstinately disengaged life. But his sister Valeria persuades him to come home to see his mother for the last time. So Bruno makes his reluctant return to Livorno, to visit that vibrant, beautiful ball of energy, who seems to defy all the medical odds. That meeting, after years of hostility, forces Bruno to come to terms with the tumultuous past he had tried to forget at all costs. Those days and nights, years ago, spent wandering in search of a place to stay, with his still naïve, fragile sister. Thrown out of the house by their jealous father. Yet pressed on by their mother's buoyant, dogged optimism. A family drama set against the narrow-mindedness of a provincial Italy that craves new desires, embodied in the indolent, fickle men who'd like to take advantage of Anna's sensual charm and candor, but ultimately lack the courage and the strength; and especially in the malicious maneuvering of Aunt Leda to usurp her talked-about sister's husband and children. After the eleventh-hour discovery of an unknown brother, a surprise wedding and separation, our trio's adventures lead to an unexpected reconciliation. A final life lesson, from an unconventional, unique mother. About keeping the faith in the little joys that life holds in store.

Director's Statement

LA PRIMA COSA BELLA is one of the chirpy, romantic songs that Anna Nigiotti-Michelucci sings to her children, Bruno and Valeria, to cheer them up during the tough times they endure after her husband Mario throws the three of them out in a jealous rage. It's the early '70s: Bruno is 8, Valeria is 5. Their stunningly beautiful mother is unexpectedly crowned Miss Mamma on a balmy summer night at the Bagni Pancaldi, Livorno's most famous bath house. From that moment on, Mario loses his head, unable to bear the unwelcome attention showered on his gorgeous young wife. All this unfolds before the sweet, naive gaze of Valeria and the watchful eyes of Bruno, ever alert of the family disputes and people's malicious gossip. These are the years when provincial Italy seems to have lost its innocence, and the wanderings of this jovial, wishful and unlucky mother, with her two kids in tow, are filled with as many false hopes as dangers encountered along the way. Today, Bruno is an unhappy, unemotional forty-something who abandoned his small hometown years ago. After much hostility, his sister Valeria persuades him to return to Livorno to say his last goodbyes to their dying mother. But he's in for a surprise: despite the clinical evidence, Anna is still beautiful, carefree, hungry for life. What should have been a quick visit turns into Bruno's chance to come to terms with a past he had stubbornly tried to forget. And Anna's passing finally becomes a celebration of life, where the pain of loss is bearable and bittersweet. It has been a moving experience for me to shoot this movie in the city I tried to escape a quarter of a century ago. Evidently, I couldn't stay away. Livorno is my own personal stage, a bit like Newark is for Philip Roth, Boulder for John Fante, or the Rione Sanita for Mario Merola. It's a city teeming with extraordinary stories of ordinary people that I am excited to tell and put on film. Maybe because we're all going through rough times, in which our society is seething with resentment and distrust, and maybe also because my last film, Tutta la vita davanti, brought me face to face with today's disturbing issues and many troubling figures - this time around I wanted to take shelter in the warmth of this story, about characters we all grow to love: the circle of life and its painful but joyful mysteries, in a family like many others. For once, maybe, no social commentary. Only the vibrant pieces of my heart.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Paolo Virzi

Written by: Paolo Virzi, Francesco Piccolo, Francesco Bruni

Produced by: Marco Cohen, Benedetto Habib, Fabrizio Donvito

Cinematography: Nicola Pecorino

Editing: Simone Manetti

Production Design: Tonino Zera

Cast: Valerio Mastandrea, Micaela Ramazzotti, Stefania Sandrelli, Claudia Pandolfi, Marco Messeri

Nominations and Awards

  • European Director 2010
  • Feature Film Selection 2010