Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Baarìa **

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Cast: Francesco Scianna, Margareth Madè, Ángela Molina
Monica Bellucci, Raoul Bova, Enrico Lo Verso, Gaetano Aronica

Epic in every sense of the word, Giuseppe Tornatore's "Baarìa"is a lovesong to the Sicilian town of Bagheria; Tornatore's own "Amarcord" if you like.
Like Fellini's masterpiece, this movie is composed of vignettes where we see life filtered through the views of the townspeople, particularly Peppino Torrenuova (Scianna) who becomes our guide through the decade spawning yarn.
We follow Peppino from his humble beginnings as the son of a shepherd (Aronica), his courting of the beautiful Mannina (Madè), up to his association with the Communist party, problems with the mafia and the creation of his own family.
Beautifully shot and framed, "Baarìa"'s major flaw is how aimless it all feels. Being such a personal film, it's obvious that the beauty will vary from the author to the beholder but then why put so many memories into film if they only serve oneself?
It's impossible to avoid comparing this movie to "Amarcord", Fellini is mentioned in the screenplay and is an obvious influence to a character in the film that represents Tornatore. Fellini too delivered a romantic ode to his Rimini, but unlike the master, Tornatore has little to add besides how idyllic life was.
While Fellini added a ceratin kind magic to the retelling of his childhood memories (he was after all a self professed liar who had no trouble making up Arabic princes and outrageous adventures) Tornatore remains a bit more reverential and tries not to offend anyone by trivializing fascism for example.
In the process though, he ends up doing just that, by turning political differences into impersonal things that more than influence the characters and the story, become irrelevant details that steer the movie away from its loving gazes at mountains and ancient villas.
Tornatore avoids all conflict that could make his characters human and create emotional connections, instead choosing to light them appropriately in ways that their beauty too overcomes the ugliness of real life.
His cast is made out of gorgeous Italian people (including Bova and Bellucci who each have exactly one scene and are put in the credits just to attract audiences probably) who spend time looking like young Christy Turlingtons emulating Sophia Loren and the sculpted men Pasolini cast for his own films.
This brings up a dilemma as we wonder if Tornatore truly remembers his childhood like this and is in complete denial of tragedies (one character in the film is notorious for being able to sleep throughout WWII air raids) or if he's trying to make the longest "visit Sicily" commercial in history.
Despite all the time we spend in Baarìa we are never able to create an encompassing vision of the town and we definitely aren't tempted to revisit it.

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