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Greek Sea, World War II. An Italian ship leaves a handful of soldiers in a little island; their mission is to spot enemy ships and to hold the island in case of attack. The village of the island seems abandoned and there isn't a single enemy in sight, so the soldiers begin to relax a little. Things change when their ship is hit and destroyed by the enemy, and the soldiers find themselves abandoned there. Actually, the island isn't deserted and when the Greeks understand that those Italians are harmless, they came out of their hiding places in the mountains and continue their peaceful lives. Soon the soldiers discover that being left behind in a God-forgotten Greek island isn't such a bad thing, after all... Written by
Flavio Rizzardi <email@example.com>
The outline of this film appears in other postings, so I will just add my two drachma by way of critical appraisal. In case you are in any doubt, Mediterraneo ranks in my best three ever - a magnificent film. If you never see it, part of your life will have been unlived.
Mediterraneo epitomises the difference between Hollywood and the demands of a largely US audience and the subtler approach of the European director/writer who seeks simply to express him/herself through the medium. I read two reviews in the Washington Post both of which managed to misunderstand the film completely, one going so far as to characterise the cast as "Marx Brothers". In fact, they are probably the finest ensemble of characters I have ever seen in film - a completely disparate group of individuals who nearly all manage to find spiritual (and sexual) fulfulment in the sensuality of Aegean island life.
The film is multi-layered and, the more obvious ones, such as the powerful anti-war message and the venality of post-Fascist Italy are often mentioned. But no-one has ever picked up on the phrase "una face, una race" which is repeated throughout the film. This is the nostrum that Italians and Greeks have a common Mediterranean heritage (come on Washington Post hacks - didn't the title give you a clue?) and that there is an enormous irony in the Italians - who rightly pride themselves on the antiquity of their civilisation - seeking to subdue another culture whose origins are 2000 years older.
This is underlined by the easy participation of the soldiers in both high and low Greek culture, .....the painting of the frescoes in the church (n.b. the Orthodox Church predating the Holy Roman Empire by centuries - clever eh!) and the wonderful unifying theme of football, which only a European or South American viewer could truly appreciate.
The group's ambivalent attitude to sexual mores adds to the sense of the place as essentially a home for Greco-Roman sensuality - a fact which is gloriously exposed with the later juxtaposition of our band of heroes with the starched British Royal Navy officers who arrive to remove them from the island.
I have not seen any mention in other reviews of the beautiful cadence of the Italian dialogue - as lilting as the bazouki music which accompanies much of the film.
The sense of disillusionment that takes over the film at the end is very powerful and it is no accident that Salvatore shows us the Lieutenant returning to the island on a ferry full of burnt-pink tourists.
This is a film that can only truly be appreciated if you have a feeling for, and understanding, of European culture. This is a film for grown-ups.
Mediterraneo demonstrates that though box-office grosses for European films are small (unless it is something produced explicity for a US audience, like the truly dreadful Four Weddings) our directors have managed to stay true to their craft.
If there are not enough car chases or shoot outs for you, look out for the five-star ratings in the Washington Post.
Fact 1: Only 10% of Americans possess a passport: Fact 2: None of them review for the Washington Post.
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