DIRECTOR: PAOLO & VITTORIO TAVIANI
COUNTRY: ITALY 1993
CINEMATOGRAPHY: GIUSEPPE LANCI
MUSIC: NICOLA PIOVANI
CAST: Claudio Bigagli, Galatea Rangi, Michael Vartan, Lino Capoliachio, Constance Engelbrecht, Athina Canci, Giovanni Guidelli, Norma Martelli, Pier Paolo Capponi
SUPER FEATURES: Beautifully written film. Luscious all the way, even if sad.
It's hard to fault this film, aside from a few moments here and there where it appears slow. But the slow-ness, like Claude Berri's, is not waiting for something to happen. It is letting the actors shed their tears, for us to see. Which makes for a film, that is as gut wrenching as the Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring type of story. And as sad and tragic as the events in this story are, the film still comes up with a bit of hope, even if it is a bit jaded, by the innocence of a youthful desire to play, or to follow through on their own wishes.
It is a story that encompasses almost 200 years in the life of a family string. It starts during one of the many Franco/Italian conflicts a young man in charge of a brigade carrying some gold, gets attacked in Italy by the noblemen who take the law in their own hands. In the process they hurt one of their own daughters. And the French officer who is actually resting, helps her. During this time they come to like each other after each other's original fears. And apparently they make love, after her leg wound is cleaned. Sadly, the young man was the guardian of a fortune in gold coins, which is taken away, by the girl's older brother and hidden. The young man, Jean ends up facing a firing squad, and the young girl is left pregnant and in despair. And this is just the beginning.
The story continues, being told to the two Bennedetti children, in today's environment, as what is probably clear that these are people related in some way, to the legends. The man telling the story to his children, is on the way to visit his own ailing father. During the drive, the children learn of this story which has many chapters and goes through nearly 200 years.
And at this point in the film, the outcome is still not clear, but it is becoming evident that the innocence of youth is always getting scramble somewhere along the line and in this case a sour old man, may be just the thing for the playful children, who find out a thing or two in their fun. They come away, mostly untouched by the events and the old man's emotional state, with the exception that one child managed to get his hands on one coin of gold, which may signal the continuance of the misfortunes in the family, although this particular generation seems to be doing fine, and the coin is taken as a souvenir, rather than any act of ill will, as has been the case before.
With incredible attention to detail and shooting design, this film is a marvel to watch. It's hard to fault it for anything, or find anyone that just seems out of place. Both directors, brothers, are just a touch above any others when it comes to attention for detail and storyline. Even the continuity of this film is smooth despite jumping many years from chapter to chapter. A very rare event, indeed for the art of film. There are bits and pieces of nice touches here and there that just stand out every so often, and the subtleties are apparent all the time. It feels like a story of a family that is intended to get back to its roots, the common people ( if there is such a thing!!! ), but it is always stopped before it returns. And the acts that stop this return are always tragic, and not always obvious. We usually find the answers as to why things happened but the characters mostly do not, and this has caused tremendous pain along the way. A series of revenges and returns to what has become a "cursed" family, with a nice double take on the family's last name in italian.
An absolutely well photographed film, with not a frame that seems out of place, and with some subtle shots that just leave your heart moved. Wonderful story, and told as only an European could. A sense of history that Americans have not yet acquired, or acknowledged.
Truly sad, but so well done.
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