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Grazia is a mother of three who spends suffocating days packing fish while her husband Pietro is at sea. Her oft-erratic behavior leads Pietro into thinking she may need medical attention, and he prepares to send her off to a psychiatric institute in Milan. Their son Pasquale, the one person who understand his mother the most, vows to do whatever it takes to foil his father's plan. Written by
Tribal simplicity; throwback to the time of Ulysses and pagan gods; almost anthropological in recording the explosion of life in a fishing community isolated from modernity on a tiny island, Lampedusa, far off the southwestern coast of Sicily, alone in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, every nook and cranny roasted by the meat-eating sun.
Shirtless packs of boys hunt and fight amid Fellini-esque seaside ruins. They pile trash into huge pyres on the beach for St. Bartolo's Day. The movie is physical, movement and light; a small film, whimsical, imperfect; almost plotless, verging on the dream of fable. You almost taste salt air, smell the sweat. Sex is everywhere. Only Rousseauan natural law holds this society together, barely.
Lust for Life boils over in the veins of a young mother, Grazia (Valeria Golino), propelling her beyond the bounds, to the consternation of all. After she sets the wild dogs loose, they want to send her away, but "the girl can't help it," to quote Little Richard. Dry little men would cluck leathery little tongues, eructate city odors, and pronounce that she suffered "mood swings," perhaps be so bold as to label her "manic depressive." But she's Grazia, Grace, the breath (respiro) of life which animates all, loves all. She cannot be tamed.
They want her gone, so she leaves. Woe to them. The Oedipal hubris of her older son (Francesco Casisa) finds her a cave to hide in. As punishment, he falls into a swoon, a dream of chickens. Her husband (Vincenzo Amato II), beside himself with grief, believing she drowned, places a statuette of the Madonna on the sea bottom. The irony is that Grazia redeems too, but not that way. The reunion is magical, Grazia risen from the dead, an image not to be forgotten.
It's been a long time since I left the theater smiling.
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