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TSPDT 2013: Sicilia!

Posted by martinteller on April 7, 2013

A man returns home to Sicily after 15 years away.  At the docks, he talks to an orange vendor about the hard times he has selling his produce.  On the train he talks to someone who regrets not being a better man, and a bureaucrat who could have been an opera singer.  In the film’s longest portion, he meets with his mother.  They talk about the food they used to eat in hard times, the father’s inadequacies as a husband, and amorous infidelities of the past.  Lastly, the man chats with a knife sharpener who says that no one brings him knives to sharpen.

I must be feeling particularly masochistic today, first a Godard and now a film by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub.  This is my fourth by them (all courtesy of the TSPDT list) and although it is slightly more interesting than the others, I’m convinced these two are either incapable of or uninterested in making an engaging film.  The story comes from an acclaimed novel by Elio Vittorini, which I can only assume is a more rewarding experience.

There are moments here and there… some of the mother’s stories have these little nuggets of sadness to them that resonate, and as a whole the movie might have something to say about Sicily and its cultural character.  But the performances — all by non-professionals — are so stiff and their delivery is so stilted that it is impossible to connect with anyone or care much about what they’re saying.  Probably a deliberate choice for some reason, but whatever the reason was it eluded me.  The high-contrast black and white photography is competent but not used to any particular effect.

There is something in the material, but the presentation is too deliberately dull to make it worthwhile.  Rating: Poor (51)


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