Legislation affording much-desired marriage rights to homosexuals receives short shrift in Italy - squelching the hopes of many a gay and lesbian couple - in Suddenly, Last Winter, documentarists Luca Ragazzi and Gustav Hofer's witty and urbane look at homophobic Italian politics.
As the film commences, eight-year romantic partners Hofer and Ragazzi rejoice with the knowledge that the right-wing administration of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has dissolved, in favor of a more progressive, left-wing administration by Romano Prodi.
Unfortunately, this appears to do little - if anything - to facilitate gay marriage rights, for bills encompassing the said proposals (known as DICOs) are ultimately dismissed by the Italian senate; meanwhile, right-wing groups (including family values-oriented parties) and the Catholic Church crusade aggressively against such bids.
Ragazzi and Hofer observe the minutiae of the Italian bureaucracy as it attempts to get the legislation passed, then incorporate interviews with individuals on both sides of the national debate and work in television news footage of the right-wing opposition.
Throughout, the filmmakers also interpolate up-close and personal footage of themselves vacationing with their parents and spending quality time with young nephews and nieces. A trip into the right-wing fray - in which Hofer and Ragazzi encounter fervent resistance to their lifestyles and modes of thought - further establishes the sense that such rights may be far off, even as the filmmakers do their best to retain optimism and hope for the future.
The title is a humorous nod to Suddenly, Last Summer, the Tennessee Williams play on which Joseph L. Mankiewicz based his 1959 film.