Una storia semplice (1991) Poster

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A not so simple murder story
Eumenides_012 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Una Storia Semplice is the last of four film adaptations of Leonardo Sciascia's books that Gian Maria Volonté starred in in his prolific career. He was 58 and his role was but a supporting role, but it's still enjoyable to see this extraordinary Italian actor at the end of his career (he died three years later, in 1994).

The movie, directed by Emidio Greco, is, like in most Sciascia adaptations, a murder mystery. Once again we're back in Sicily, the author's birthplace, and the local police is investigating the death of an old man in an inhospitable villa outside town. With a bullet hole in his forehead and an old gun lying on the floor, the authorities are anxious to write it off as suicide, except the tenacious Brigadier Lepri (Ricky Tognazzi) refuses to drop the case until the truth is ascertained.

The movie, however, is less concerned with truth than with the atmosphere of silence and class prejudices that govern Sicilian society's views on crime and justice. Not investigating murder is safer since you never know if the criminals involved aren't important pillars of society, and going against such people is always a pain in the ass. With that in mind, the end of the movie is darkly humorous for its bleak cynicism.

Una Storia Semplice is a simple movie and hardly to impress itself on viewers' minds. The plot is relatively straightforward, the camera work is conventional. The best thing the movie has in its favour is the dialogues, with the usual Sciascia wit, and the performances. Volonté plays an aging teacher who knows the victim and helps in the investigation. We also have Ennio Fantastichini (he had co-starred with Volonté before in Porte Aperte) as a shifty chief of police, and Ricky Tognazzi as the suffering honest cop who wants to get to the bottom of the murder.

The movie benefits from Sicily's natural landscapes, I'm always amused by the fact that such a beautiful place has acted so often as the setting of gruesome murders in Italian movies. Although Una Storia Semplice is hardly essential cinema, it is worth watching once.
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Sicily in winter, the mafia in all seasons.
David Traversa15 July 2008
It seems that I'm only watching old movies that nobody else will watch anymore. It's all right.

I'm watching old movies that I take from the Dante Alighieri School of Italian in Buenos Aires, mainly to refresh my Italian. Of course when they are good, it's an ideal combination.

In this particular case, I'm afraid we are a bit far from excellence. They based this film on the last Leonardo Sciascia tale about the Sicilian mafia, published a few days previous to his death. I think that what bothered me most was the editing and the music. The editing could have profited by eliminating from a few to several seconds on each scene --we won't enumerate them here!-- since many of them were quite awkward, (the mother and son scene at the commissary, for example).

The truly interesting message of this movie, is that justice exists only in those very old American films, where the police was so honest, the judges carved from a solid piece of granite and the research of the crime was conducted no matter what, masterfully, till the very rotund ending, where the bad guy goes to jail and the good guy comes out clean (because he is honest and a good person).

Blach and White, there were no gradations of grays when it came to Goodness and Evil. But not even American movies are made like that anymore. The world got wiser and sour since then.

And we know that in real life, we have mainly gradations of grays. Very seldom --if ever-- we find sheer black or luminous white. And this is exactly what this movie shows us. Nothing is what we thought it was going to be.

And the abysmal conclusion is that because there are so many prominent citizens involved in this (aparently) unresolved crime, the police decides --after finding the real murderer-- to drop the case branding it as "Accidental".

Beautiful the scene where one of the witnesses (suspected as involved in the crime) is finally set free from the police station and we see him living that town in his white Volvo, when in a flashback he associates a face he just saw leaving the police station in the company of one of the murderers in the incident witnessed by him, and in the middle of this empty road where he was traveling, he turns back to go and tell the police about this extremely important detail.

But the car --we see it from a bird's eye point of view-- vacillates after a few yards, maneuvers again and returns to the previous direction, when he was living town, and he disappears without looking back.

Obviously he had decided that it wasn't worth it --being a foreigner--, to get involved in something alien to his life.

Entertaining movie in a very muffled way.
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Great mistery move from last Leonardo Sciascia book
shyguy-330 June 2003
This is a great movie. We have another great performance by Gian Maria Volonte, and all the young cast (actually all of them are among the best italian actors) worked very well around him. It's a nice mistery movie, that tells Sicily in Sciascia's way. 8 out of 10.
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