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A red carpet event of major proportions. First time in 20 years that an Italian film opens the prestigious Venice Film Festival. The expectations were palpable. The film, as far as I'm concerned, a very personal 30 million dollar artsy rehash of a lot of common places. In a way the two and a half hours seemed to me the promotional teaser of a movie we have yet to see. In fact it looks and feels like a long, long trailer. Naturally, Tornatore knows how to steer sentiments and has a vivid commercial eye that survives in spite of the artistic aspirations. There are a couple of wonderful moments and it's a treat to see dozens of Italian stars making very brief cameos in a beautiful reconstructed city. The question is, after the emotional soirée, this morning it took me well after breakfast to remember the actual movie and I suspect that is because "Baaria" is too much and not enough at the same time. What come back to me at this very moment, trying to remember the epic is the wonderful face of Lina Sastri. So, Tornatore and his major collaborator Ennio Morricone are heading back to Oscar land. I wish them luck
The film was received last night with an ovation. I was there in the audience, applauding. What a beautiful looking film! That was last night, today I found myself in difficulty trying to describe what I had seen. Where to start? With a kid running? Or, with Giuseppe Tornatore himself, a skillful craftsman with too much power? I suppose Tornatore is what I've carried with me from the experience. He tried to give us a "1900" but just hinting at the highs and lows with pretty pictures and Ennio Morricone. More Zeffirelli than Visconti. More Richard Attenborough than Bernardo Bertolucci. We in Italy need to see one of our most successful directors as an artist, as a man of culture. That's a trap an inhuman trap. The superficiality of "Baaria" is disguised by alluding to great themes with heavy "artistic" moments, dream like, magic realism, slow motion, but at the end of the day the superficiality shows up. Some of my favorite films appear superficial when in reality they are not. But I get terribly impatient when the opposite is true. I don't want to be negative towards this effort and I'm sure it will find a large audience all over the world I just don't want it to be presented to me like the serious work of a great artist because it's not. I loved Tornatore's "A Pure Formality" and the first part of "Cinema Paradiso" From "Baaria" I loved the beautiful faces of the two new comers in the leading roles and most of the score. I found the brief appearances by famous Italian actors entertaining but distracting. Perhaps that was the intention. Now, all said and done I will urge you to see it and make up your own mind.
Looking back with a sentimental eye and a generous budget doesn't guarantee a masterpiece and in fact "Baaria" is not a masterpiece, but it manages to be a lot of other things and when I say a lot a mean an awful lot, too much perhaps. The ambition of the enterprise clashes with its clarity, its accomplishment even with its honesty. I've spent 10 critical years of my childhood in Sicily and the Sicily depicted here, beauty an all, felt like the work of a foreigner. This is a Sicily for exportation or, the Sicily of a dreamer with a very acute cinematic eye. Not the Sicily of Visconti's "La Terra Trema" to be sure but perhaps Tornatore's way is a cleverer way to go about it. This is a exemplary crafted "product". It doesn't have the depth of real art nor its purity. It has, however, a great show of confidence in itself. Beautiful images, beautiful protagonists, beautiful score. The toothless smiles of the under proletarians the color coordinated attire of the rich, everything in place just the way we imagine. To say that I was disappointed wouldn't be quite true, in fact, I enjoyed it much more that I thought I would, but now, twenty four hours later, very little of it remains in my mind or in my heart.
I wanted to like this film more than any other. The Italian cinema needs a shot in the arm and who better than Giuseppe Tornatore to be the one who does it. I've waited three days to see if anything Tornatore presented to his audience would stick. An image, a thought, an idea. Not such luck. The film is an epidermic recount of the 1900's without getting in very deep and with a great deal of Morricone music. "Baaria" turns out to be a pretty succession of images, too pretty and too many, that hide, while you're watching it, a total emptiness. A tired, didactic trifle built into an epic. Maybe Tornatore, the business man knew what he was doing. Not to alienate an audience with new thoughts or ideas but provide instead a long video clip full of pretty people acting up a storm. We'll see, maybe this a formula to get into the Oscar nominations and the fact that the gorgeous male lead is a communist makes him appear, today as today, like a true romantic hero. As beauty is, was and always will be in the eye of the beholder, audiences may be taken but what is shown on the screen and stop there. Unfortunately I can't do that. I prefer a scene out of focus but that gives me something I can take with me forever.
I used to be a fanatic of Italian cinema. I learned to see and appreciate film thanks to Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Pietro Germi, Mario Monicelli, right up to Bernardo Bertolucci, that's why I felt so upset and depress by this latest Tornatore film, the most expensive Italian production ever. The result is a mildly successful Martini Bianco commercial. Everything looks and feels phony. The "auteur" is trying to sell us something and I fear many will buy because the rewards, if you can call them that, are immediate. Beautiful colorful images, relentless Morriconi, famous faces playing tiny cameos etc. A commercial operation if I ever saw one. The confusing part is that Venice prides itself for being a "Mostra d'Arte" so, I'm prepared to bet "Baaria" is going to get some of the top awards. The forces here don't seem to be on the side of art but on the artful skill of self congratulations but, I do hope I'm wrong. As I sat through the two and a half hours I was hoping, longing actually, for a hint of Francesco Rosi or even Blassetti or Soldati. No, not even by mistake. This is a pastry difficult and dangerous to digest. No heart, no warmth and no truth.
I was very disturbed by this film and not the kind of disturbance a Polanski or a Pasolini may provide but a disturbance that goes beyond what was on the screen. The Italians tend to be so strict, so serious when it comes to films by an "auteur" so, how is it they give Giuseppe Tornatore a thumbs up for this sentimental without sentiment, two and a half hours television commercial? I kept waiting for the film to start but it never does. Headlines without the article that explains it. Snippets, sketches enveloped in lots and lots of sticky music. This could perfectly have been the work of an American director who's never been to Sicily. A children's coloring book. I'm so puzzled
A long series of pretty pictures, very pretty and very long, but nothing close to real emotion. Everything feels so prepared to get an Oscar nomination that it may get it. It was in competition at the last Venice film festival but didn't win anything because, I imagine, the Venice Film Festival is a showcase for serious, innovative cinema and "Baaria" is none of that. It is a strange experience to sit through something so sentimental and come out with the sentiments intact. When you get a postcard from a loved one what may make you cry is what it's written not the picture in the card. "Baaria" is a blank card. I saw it only an hour ago in a well attended Roman cinema and the images that remain are just that, images without anything real attached to it. A who's who of Italian cinema parade in small cameos but I couldn't tell who was who. I think in Italy people are determined to transform "Baaria" into a big hit and why not. It is a pretty travelogue of a history lesson that looks like a fairy tale.
Lovely to look at. A chunk of 1900 set in a small Sicilian town, that town where Giuseppe Tornatore, the writer director, was born. I thought it was a delightful two and a half hours of snippets between fades to black. just like memories work, a bit of this and a bit of that. A tapestry of highs and lows among the remarkably unremarkable. My only puzzlement comes with the way Italians are reacting to "Baaria" Even if it was at the top of the box office charts there is tendency to dismiss this film for not confronting this for not confronting that for being too "clean" and a lot of other absurdities like that. This is an epic, expensive looking, personal film by the anointed "best living Italian Director" which means a director that is marketable in other countries, specially USA. I can predict that Americans will love "Baaria" in spite of the red flags and the romantic view of communism. They know that school of thought is by now as anachronistic as a typewriter and just as harmless. The leads are played by two scrumptious new stars and from the collection of cameos I took away with me Angela Molina and Lina Sastri remain vividly in my mind.
Giuseppe Tornatore, the director of Cinema Paradiso (1989), one of the
greatest films ever made, has made Baaria, a 150-minute long drama that
spans more than six decades in the life of the film's lead character,
Peppino Torrenuova. Based on memories of the Sicilian village the
Italian director was born into, Baaria is an autobiography of sorts
that documents the lives of people who have been affected by social and
political revolutions of the last century, and as seen through the eyes
of the Torrenuova family.
Shot in Italy and Tunisia in which a full set of a Sicilian village was built from scratch, Baaria is visually captivating. Tornatore creates a feeling of "vibrant nostalgia" by having most of the scenes drenched in bright yellow as if memories of the past have been lighted up by a powerful flashlight. The film may be attractive to look at, but the lack of emotional power undermines the filmmaker's attempt to recreate Cinema Paradiso all over again.
The most glaring flaw of Baaria that limits its emotional power is the uninspired editing rendered. It is ironic that even with such a long running time, the film has inadequate character development. The editing is such that the film is broken up into about twenty sequences of similar length and is merged together through the fade out-fade in technique. Thus, it is like watching a slideshow of beautiful images.
The film is coherent enough for the average viewer to comprehend, but the narrative that drives the core of the film remains inhibited, as if it is involuntarily hiding behind the image. And when the narrative seems to pick up steam in some parts, and things get quite interesting, Tornatore breaks it all apart again. And again. It is quite frustrating on the viewer to say the least.
Ennio Morricone once again creates a beautiful score that is slow and mournful. It is, however, let down by the film's lack of interest in connecting with the viewer. Interestingly, Baaria is a film in which the sum is more than the parts that add up to it. The last fifteen minutes finally reveals the scope of Tornatore's vision for Baaria, which until then seems like an enlarged postcard with stunning images, but without the words that would reveal the sender's emotions.
While he seeks to look back into the past, he also wishes to equate a lifetime of memories to a split-second afterthought, highlighting the fact that time passes too quickly for us to appreciate each moment on its own, of which the medium of cinema can only suggest but not replicate. Through some heavy symbolism and instances of magical realism, Tornatore makes us aware of the medium at work.
Baaria, for all of its editing shortcomings, appears to transcend them by the time the end credits roll. Unfortunately, the parts that make up the film still linger unsatisfactorily in the mind. Baaria is Tornatore's love letter to his hometown. It is done with lots of love, but sadly, it just doesn't come out as such on the big screen.
SCORE: 6.5/10 (www.filmnomenon.blogspot.com) All rights reserved!
I saw this last month at the 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival. From famed writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore this was Italy's official submission to the 82nd Academy Awards for Best foreign Language Film and was nominated for a Golden Globe in the same category so despite its rather lengthy 150 minute run time I was looking forward to seeing this. Also it is set in beautiful Scicily and features 40 of Italy's top actors in lead and cameo roles and a music score from the great Ennio Morricone so on paper this looks like a sure-fire hit. It certainly has an epic quality about it and it's nice to look at but there are just too many acting roles with very little for them to do. The time frame of it's setting covering three generations is too ambitious. The story line is too weak. the story takes place across the first half of the 20th century. Peppino (Francesco Scianna) is the son of a Shepperd who grows up to be a local rep of the Communist Party and has a forbidden romance and marriage to the beautiful Mannina (Margareth Madè). Beautiful photography from cinematographer Enrico Lucidi complementing the lovely art direction and production design of Maurizo Sabatini and Cosimo Gomez with some nice special effects this is a great looking film but it's wandering story line and fairly weak dialog drags it down. There is a lot to like in this film but despite the expense that must have gone into making it it falls way short of being an excellent film. I would give it a 7.0 out of 10.
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