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The Night of the Shooting Stars is the semi-autobiographical recollection by
the Taviani Brothers of the night when a group of peasants in a small Tuscan
village left their homes that had been mined by the Fascists to look for
liberating American soldiers rumored to be on the outskirts. Set on the
night of the Feast of St. Lawrence in the closing days of World War II, and
enhanced by a haunting score by Nicola Piovani, the film is a tragi-comic
glimpse of what the war was like to an impressionable child filtered through
years of memory. It is essentially a series of vignettes combining fact,
memory, and poetic imagination told in flashback by a mother recalling her
days as a 6-year old girl named Cecilia caught in the middle of war.
The film focuses on the nature of a conflict in which life long friends from the same village are often engaged in the struggle on different sides. Especially vivid is a scene involving a battle in a wheat field between the villagers and home grown Fascists, and a heart wrenching confrontation between the partisans and a father with his 15-year old son. There are many other poignant moments as well: a young couple expecting a child, the village priest who is a collaborator, and an elderly couple rekindling a romance started when they were adolescents.
Night of the Shooting Stars pays homage to the tradition of neo-realism, but also includes surrealistic moments such as when the young girl sees the partisans as Greek warriors, while the Fascist who threatens her life falls dead, pierced by multiple spears. Though Night of the Shooting Stars suffers from overacting, its unique approach allows us to see war as a very personal experience with all of its sadness and cruelty. It was also gratifying to see Americans being held in high esteem, an experience we haven't enjoyed much of recently.
If you want to know how Italians lived and felt in the Second World War, how they managed the terror, you have to watch this movie. Have you imagined your neighbors collaborating with the Nazi-Fascist army? Have you imagined can't trusting in your relatives? Have you imagined yourself being chased and having to run away on foot for kilometers? Well, most of us have never faced this situation (some of us did) and this movie is one portrait of what Nazism/Fascism was to Europe.
This film is an eye-opening look at Italian life during WWII. It reminds me of the stories my grandfather tells me of his life in 1930s Florence during the war, "We didn't have money for anything, not even water. The rich had it all." This movie shows us the sparseness of their lives, and the things that they still hold dear. There are scenes in which it is almost hard to watch, we are torn apart by the brutality of the war, but we are entranced by the people who are living through it. We meet ruthless fascists, and caring catholic priests and every moment describes to us the terrifying truth, and the hope that lets one continue. I could not imagine a more realistic, and emotional epic on the subject.
The night of August 10th, when the feast of St. Lawrence is observed,
is the time of the year when meteor showers can be observed in the sky.
It has been a tradition in the western culture that wishing for a favor
when watching the falling stars in the sky is a way to ask for love,
riches and luck. The sky watchers can expect a spectacle like no other
because of the way those distant lights are seen falling, fast and
The brothers Taviani, Paolo and Vittorio, have always come out with interesting films that involve simple people, usually connected to the land. In "La Notte di San Lorenzo", the Tavianis take the viewer to witness a group of people from Tuscany during the last days of WWII. The story is told by a 6 years old girl who was too young to realize the horrors around her in those final days of the conflict.
In spite of the approaching American liberating army, there are still the horrible local Fascists, who knowing they were fighting a losing battle, terrorized their neighbors into submission. These misguided people, having mined most of the houses in the town, are feared by the local population. Some flee into the countryside, but some remain in the town, convinced that being in the big church will protect them against evil.
Things go from bad to worse. We see different vignettes involving some of the people, as they cope with the situation. There is Galvano, who has loved Concetta in silence and is finally, as in a miracle, gets his wish granted in the way that she acknowledges that she has always love him, even after both have been married to different people. There's the young pregnant young bride, who is expecting and who gets married at the beginning of the film, only to be separated from her husband in an ironic twist.
The Tavianis painted a huge canvas in which they situated the action. Tuscany in the summer is a lovely place to be, but one can't even comprehend that it was also the scene for the tragedy lived in Italy in those tragic years. The music by Nicola Piovani is effective in the background. Franco DiGiacomo's photography does wonders to make the film a great experience. The large cast does an excellent job for the Tavianis, who are ultimately, the ones to thank for their courage in presenting us this lyrical movie of beauty and death.
For a different perspective of WWII, one should watch this essential, beautiful film. Of all the many pictures out there that deal with this tragedy, this is one I would consider necessary viewing. Amid the pain and tragedy of war, there are moments of poetry and beauty seen through a young child's eyes.
My romance with Italian cinema dates from my childhood. Maybe it has a subliminal link with my mother's name from Calabria (Torchia), but I remember all those cinematic images and sounds as things very far yet familiar, and I identified with the passion, the laughter, and the cadence in the voices of all the characters I saw and heard on the screen. This drama by the Taviani brothers is from a latter date, but it had the same resonance on me, and I remember leaving the movie house in tears. Furthermore, it dealt with peasants in a situation of conflict that reaches an extreme level of violence, leading to death: it takes place during World War II, as in Pasolini's "Salò", but instead of powerful, rich and decadent men murdering young prisoners, "La notte di San Lorenzo" unfolds in open spaces, dealing with people closer to nature, with simpler and perennial values, revealing love among the old, ideological struggle between families, and hope. Framed by a scene in which a mother tells her child the story of what happened on the night of San Lorenzo, the film also deals with memory, with a touch of magic and poetry, as the events are seen through the child's eyes. With a most beautiful score by Nicola Piovani, this unsung masterpiece is a film not to be missed.
If you watch this movie you will note the importance of American fight for freedom on II World War. Italy was in a civil war, partigiani against fascists, cousins against cousins. The Taviani brothers bring on marvelous Toscany landscape all the pain of battles. The anatomy and cruelty of the war, the mourning face of a German soldier is the same as the enemy, how the civilian suffers under cross fire are revealed by takes as cutting knife. Can love survive or grow under war freedom restriction ? Was the church collaborating with fascist in some aspects ? Are open questions whose replies the directors try to give us. We can't avoid thinking about what is going on Iraque war, after all tears and stars are falling on San Lorenzo nights years by years since the end of II World War, the war never stopped in this crazy word.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WWII is ending, and the occupying German forces intend to blow up a
village before the approaching Americans get there. Half of the
villagers decide to escape, so they sneak out of town to look for the
Americans while hiding in wheat fields and fighting fascists.
The movie is narrated by a woman who was a six year-old in the little band of townsfolk who escaped the village. The story is episodic and choppy, juxtaposing scenes that aren't always understandable. We never get to know any of the townsfolk as individuals; instead, we are overwhelmed with the general misery of war - the deprivation, constant fear, the cruelty, and even some surreal visions.
I guess I missed the actual night of shooting stars and it was annoying to miss the significance of the title. Also, I was often confused as to who was who, but overall, it is quite an effective wartime horror story. In Italian with subtitles.
The fraternal filmmaking team of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani recall the closing days of World War II with mingled affection and pain, looking back at the fate of one small northern Italian village (ostensibly their own childhood home) set in the path of opposing armies. Combining their typically lyrical approach to storytelling with a remarkable feel for setting, the two directors follow a small group of villagers as they steal through enemy lines one night in an attempt to meet the advancing Allied troops. Seen through the rose-colored lens of memory, the Taviani brothers' episodic reminiscences take the horror (but not the hurt) out of battle, reducing all the bloodshed and rage to a poignant and distinctly recalled tragedy.
The Night of San Lorenzo, the night of the shooting stars, is the night
when dreams come true in Italian folklore. In 1944, a group of Italians
flee their town after hearing rumors that the Nazis plan to blow it up
and that the Americans are about to arrive to liberate them.
Pauline Kael wrote, "The Night of the Shooting Stars is so good it's thrilling. This new film encompasses a vision of the world. Comedy, tragedy, vaudeville, melodrama - they're all here, and inseparable...In its feeling and completeness, Shooting Stars may be close to the rank of Jean Renoir's bafflingly beautiful Grand Illusion...unreality doesn't seem divorced from experience (as it does with Fellini) - it's experience made more intense...For the Tavianis, as for Cecilia, the search for the American liberators is the time of their lives. For an American audience, the film stirs warm but tormenting memories of a time when we were beloved and were a hopeful people." I wouldn't heap on quite as much praise as Kael, but there are some memorable moments -- most notably the spear scene! I appreciate the concept of a fantasy film set during war, especially from the point of view of Italy, which was really in a unique position as far as their government goes. Their leader was a bad guy, but not generally considered on the same level as Hitler or Tojo. The use of fantasy elements in war is not new (it seems to be a way to show how children deal with trauma) but it is done a little differently here, maybe a bit darker and less comic.
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