The performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar comes to an end and the performers are rewarded with rapturous applause. The lights go out; the actors leave the stage and return to their cells. They are all inmates of the Roman maximum security prison Rebibbia. One of them comments: ‘Ever since I discovered art this cell has truly become a prison’. Continue reading Paolo Taviani & Vittorio Taviani – Cesare deve morire (2012)
Florence, Italy, 1348. As the plague ravages the city dwellers of Tuscany, a group of young men and women takes shelter in a remote villa in the hills surrounding Florence. Now living as a community, they decide to tell each other a story a day to take their minds off their precarious situation… Continue reading Paolo Taviani & Vittorio Taviani – Maraviglioso Boccaccio AKA Wondrous Boccaccio (2015)
In Allonsanfan, the director/brother team of Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani weave a witty and occasionally melancholic tale of 19th century radicalism in Italy. Marcello Mastroianni stars as Fulvio, a middle-aged man swept up in a extremist political movement. The more he protests that he wants no part of politics, the deeper he becomes enmeshed in the Cause. This film might make an intriguing companion piece to the earlier Mastroianni film The Organizer (63), in which he portrays one of the very radical types that his character in Allonsanfan so zealously repudiates. The title refers to the phonetic spelling of “Alons enfants,” the first two words of the French “Marseillaise”. Continue reading Paolo Taviani & Vittorio Taviani – Allonsanfan (1973)
Paolo and Vittorio Taviani first garnered critical attention with this adaptation of Gavino Ledda’s autobiography, winning both the Golden Palm and the Critics Prize at Cannes in 1977. Gavino’s father pulls him out of elementary school at the age of 6 to force him into the life of a Sardinian shepherd, often severely beating him. Yet Gavino’s illiteracy spurs him on to eventually earn a university degree on Sardinian dialects. And it’s his journey from the cruel, solitary, animal world of shepherding under the yoke of his tyrant Padre, to that of a writer and a linguist that forms the body of this tale. But more, it’s a showcase for the talents of the Taviani brothers, whose style keeps us distant from their subject, like a child watching an ant colony.
There’s a moment in Padre Padrone (“Father Master” for those who want to be clued in to the film’s political rumblings from the get-go) that typifies the best and worst it has to offer. Gavino, having had a violent argument with his father, decides to leave home to keep the peace, but must retrieve a valise that’s under the bed his father is currently sitting on. This brings the top of his head conveniently close to Padre, whose hand absently moves to pat him on the noggin, but instead raises in a fascistic fist of rage. The ambivalence of the gesture is pointed, and well taken. But to make the point, the Tavianis have abstracted their characters past all recognition. There is no time in the film when a scene is not a carefully controlled abstraction. Now the characters are all gestures and tableaux, swallowed by pastoral landscapes, markers in its historical sweep rather than flesh-and-blood people. While this might appeal to an audience’s sense of intellectual cool, it also deprives them of the richer joys of being allowed under a character’s skin. (-Jim Gay – Editorial Reviews – Amazon.com)
Continue reading Paolo Taviani & Vittorio Taviani – Padre padrone (1977)
This symbolic film underscores the struggles between a group of visionaries versus the Establishment while wondering about the survival of humankind. A group of young men manage to escape a volcano eruption on their small island. Seeking a new life, they stop at an island between their destroyed island and the mainland. This island is run by Renno, the community leader who offers the men help and a boat to continue their journey. The group conspires to panic the islanders with fear of another volcano eruption in order to take over the abandoned island. Renno has the men jailed for creating a disturbance, but after their terms are served, the men betray Renno by killing off the male population and escaping with the surviving women. The two apparently go off to pursue their utopian ideals where there is one woman for every two men. Continue reading Paolo Taviani & Vittorio Taviani – Sotto il segno dello scorpione AKA Under the Sign of Scorpio (1969)
THIS VERSION IS COMPLETE (3h 09′) AND INCLUDES EPISODE ‘JAR’.
The film consists of four stories plus epilogue, set in 19th-century Sicily. THE OTHER SON – A mother spends her life waiting for news from her two sons (emigrated to America) while ignoring her third, because he is the reincarnation of the bandit who raped her. MOON SICKNESS – a newly-wed peasant girl discovers that her husband goes mad every full moon. She arranges for a male friend to protect her, but they end up in bed together just as the moon emerges from behind a cloud. THE JAR – a rich landowner hires a master craftsman to repair a giant olive jar, but the craftsman gets trapped inside. REQUIEM – villagers band together in an attempt to force their landlord to let them bury their dead. CONVERSATIONS WITH MOTHER – the writer Luigi Pirandello talks with his aged mother about a story he always wanted to write, but which he never managed to capture in words. Continue reading Paolo Taviani & Vittorio Taviani – Kaos (1984)