The Tavianis clunk up an interesting "Lost" premise
In recent years many brother acts, ranging from the Maysles, Coens, Farrellys, Wheats, Quays and Hugheses to the Pates have been directing movies, but for me the all-time greats are the Taviani Bros. With UNDER THE SIGN OF SCORPIO they lose plenty of brownie points, but I'm welling to write this misfire off. (The only sisters I know of are in the porn field, the cutely named "de Neuve" girls who directed in the mid-'70s.)
Set-up parable is apocalyptic, falling somewhere between the strange sagas associated with Werner Herzog (like "Heart of Glass") to an episode midway during the run of TV's "Lost". An island has been decimated by a volcanic eruption and the few survivors escape to a nearby island. Led by Giulio Brogi, they know that their new home is equally susceptible to such a catastrophe via its own volcano, but they are unable to convince the current inhabitants of Island #2 to flee with them to a mainland.
That is essentially the entire plot for a series of blackout vignettes that are sometimes interesting but often banal or merely pointless. Early in their estimable career the Tavianis are experimenting with the cinematic form and I, for one, was unimpressed with the results.
One of the problems is a disinterest in conventional acting or credible human behavior, much in the manner pioneered around this time by Pasolini. Though top talent is employed (Brogi for one clan, and the brilliant Gian Maria Volonte and Lucia Bose as patriarch and matriarch on Island #2), they are instructed to perform amateurishly. In an effort at forced primitivism, the protagonists' actions oddly come off as much phonier and postured than if Volonte (for example) were giving one of his usual flamboyant, theatrical turns (see: INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN for example).
There is plenty of sex and violence in the stew, leading to extremely cryptic sequences later in the film. The barbarian-seeming denizens from Island #1 take to dressing up in cowbells and prancing around all night long in militant stomp fashion to annoy and perplex Island #2 folk, when latter don't take kindly to their insistence that everybody flee the place immediately. (I thought I'd wandered into a recent East Village off-Broadway show at this point.) Later they kidnap most of the women and hogtie them in bondage, cueing brutal violence as Islanders #2 don't take kindly to this action.
Film's open ending is sudden and cryptic, as if the Tavianis were purposely dumping the entire narrative in the viewer's lap instead of attempting to tie up any plot or thematic threads themselves. I shudder to think what fans of similar material (like LORD OF THE FLIES) will think should they have the temerity to sit through this failure, as I had to being a completist. Next up for me (gulp!) is 3-1/2 hours of Laetitia Casta pretending to be an actress rather than a supermodel as the TV star of the Tavianis' LUISA SAN FELICE, crudely dubbed into English no less. Ah, the joys of movie masochism.
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