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A man returns to visit his native Sicily after living in New York for a long time. He learns about the Sicilian way of life from stylized conversations with an orange picker, his fellow train passengers, his mother, and a knife-sharpener. Written by
A beautiful simple film in high-contrast black-and-white. Tribute, commentary, criticism, discussions of food, history, class, music, politics, religion, the nature of Sicily and Sicilians Adapted from a novel, the film simply consists of a series of conversations perceived by a man who has returned to Sicily- from America, he says, but we learn Sicilians aren't always truthful. On landing the traveller talks with an orange-seller, a labourer who has been paid in the oranges he helped to grow because the grower cannot sell them himself; on a train he eavesdrops on two bureaucrats standing by a window, a talk with travelling-companions where a land-owner regrets that he cannot be a better man with a better conscience; on another train, a conversation with another man who lacked the courage to become a singer; a strange silent interlude some minutes long where the camera looks from a window at the arid landscape they pass through. Then the longest scene, a long conversation between the man and his mother about his childhood, her relationships with her father, a "man's man", her husband, who was so scared when she gave birth unexpectedly that he was no help at all, her children and other men. The two of them sit against a gleaming white wall by a table. The last scene is a meeting with an itinerant knife-sharpener- a kind of light relief and a figure of hope, an archetypal figure of the Sicilian past filmed in the open air of an empty square. He sharpens the traveller's penknife and returns half his fee. The film's technique is stylised and simple, gazing at faces, pulling back a little to show them against walls or other backgrounds, watching them and being watched in silence as well as speech. We are not told when the film is set (in the 1930s, in fact) but have to deduce it from evidence- the absence of motor cars, what the people say, the way they are dressed- and are left to infer that it is about a timeless place and people.
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