Thursday, 12 August 2010

Baarìa reviewed

Written and directed by Academy Award® Winner Giuseppe Tornatore (CINEMA PARADISO).

Tornatore’s Baarìa, a broad brush sweep of 20th century Italian history, follows the adventures of Peppino from childhood to old age in the Sicilian town of Baarìa, his encounters with fascism and WW2. It also charts his raise, and that of the town, from poverty to relative riches as a politician and member of the Italian Communist Party (“Signora, if we, communists, eat babies, I promise I won’t eat yours” was one of his campaigning lines – alluding to the “red under the bed” hysteria of those years).

Magic realism Italian style defines this film, with cinematic references to Fellini, Bertolucci and American classic Westerns, particularly with those slow long lens panning shots on the town from a raised camera, the musical score also reminiscent of Westerns. Some of the scenes brought to my mind Fellini’s Amarcord, as the town life is seen through the eyes of the child Peppino.

An extraordinary sound track, bringing to the screen all the vivid sounds of a Sicilian small town in the midst of last century. The power of it was such that it nearly brought the smells of Baarìa to my nose (perhaps what it did was to rekindle those smells from my past, buried deep in one of the crannies of my memory), the paste being cooked, the freshly baked bread, the farm odours too, the unwashed feet.

I am sure that the film will be criticized for being somewhat misty eyed; as the fascists are characterized as a bunch of clowns, although the scenes of the inhabitants making fun of them are quite hilarious. If that criticism is made, it would not be totally fair, as it also depicts the landless farm hands being beaten and killed by the big farmers and their friends, the black shirts. There are also scenes hinting at the endemic corruption of Sicilian small town local politics. The structure of the film somewhat alludes, on this respect, to that of Bertolucci’s Novecento, although the tone of Baarìa is less politically shaded.

I laughed, I cried and I just felt good at being alive by watching this film. I feast to the senses.

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