Sicily! (1999) Poster


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You can't go home again...
allenrogerj2 August 2007
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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Dost thou remember Sicily?
RogerTheMovieManiac887 February 2017
On the 3rd of February 2017 it was announced that the IMDb message boards would be shutting down. This news prompted me to look through my posting history to see what posts I should like to save. I originally offered the following thoughts (here slightly modified) on Straub and Huillet's 'Sicilia!' in response to a request from ali-112 and I would like to dedicate what merit there is in them to her and to zetes. The passion for cinema from corners far and wide that they have shared with others through the Classic Film Board has been quite wonderful to be some small part of over recent years.

'Sicilia!' is a film and immersive cinematic experience that has really stayed with me in the days and months since I viewed it. I was aware that it was one that ali-112 valued particularly highly and that played into my particularly wanting to see it in conjunction with a yearly poll being run at that time.

This is a film of re-immersion, rediscovery, re-exposure. It is certainly a quietly amazing sensory experience. The definition and striking contrasts between blacks and whites in the cinematography carries a vividness, a clarity, and a tonal subtlety that assigns importance and individuality to everything that passes before the lens. I have read reviews that have described the unhurried observational qualities of Straub and Huillet as seeming austere and even boring. While I do have question-marks and perhaps some reservations as a newcomer about their approach to film-making, I think that the sparse, sharply defined compositions exhibit a beguiling and captivating artistic sense that leads to the film being utterly memorable.

This was my first foray into the films of Straub and Huillet and perhaps I don't appreciate fully yet the subtlety of their melding of a humane Marxism and cinematic form. Their cinematic language can seem challenging but it can also come across as being tranquil and meditative. The aesthetic inclusivity that lingers upon empty spaces as sounds fade naturally displays an inventiveness and an openness that allows one to look at one's own ways of perceiving and presents opportunities to watch and listen in newly attentive and attuned ways that might confound inculcated expectations of rigid regimentation as well as allowing one to question the finely honed strictures and edited orderliness of filmic presentation that we as viewers have become so accustomed to digesting. This willingness to ascribe just as much importance to silence and blank space leads to a continually captivating and, in some ways, unsettling work. And key to all of it is of course the nature of the dialogue, as this returned son of Sicily observes and interacts. I should perhaps mention that the copy I watched didn't carry any subtitles. In a way, in retrospect, I am glad that this was the case. The words spoken, while obviously central, were only one aspect of the communication in the film. The vital, irrepressible cadence of the dialogue and the emphasised delivery proved transfixing and succeeded in going beyond the immediacy of the spoken word to probe deeper qualities of individuality and the inherent complexity of human expression. Despite not picking up all that was said, I feel that the way I experienced the film allowed me to appreciate it in a more enriching and involving fashion than if I had been reaching down for subtitles and continually averting my gaze from the multi-layered on-screen discussions.

I undoubtedly found it a challenging film to watch but I suspect that it is a work that I will come to value even more as I gain a greater understanding and appreciation of Straub and Huillet and their carefully attentive, literary-minded explorations of film language. 'Sicilia!' makes for a humanistic, contemplative, and startlingly inventive entry (at least to this uninitiated viewer!) and I certainly look forward to exploring more of their output over the coming months and years.
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Beautiful Documentary
micaela-andrich16 October 2010
Beautiful historic documentary of the life in Sicily during the 30ies.

Stunning images on land, people and houses.

The majority of actors are villagers of Sicilian villages.

They speak in dialect, so it is difficult to understand the movie without subtitles. Central part in the movie are the oranges, that nobody wants to buy.

I saw the movie ten years ago and since then I didn't have occasion to saw it again. When I first saw the movie I also thought it is boring. I needed more years to understand that this is a great movie.

Hope everybody would get the chance to look at it, till the end.
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treywillwest6 March 2017
This might be the most broadly appealing film I've seen from Huillet/Straub. Bleak, challenging and funny, it's also deeply human in ways that even non-cineasts can relate to. Best known for their extraordinary landscapes, H&S were also masters of the close-up. The last shot of the outraged historian in History Lessons is equaled here by the final image of the mother in this film. Grotesque, ignorant (and leftist) but also deeply vulnerable, the scolding and hypocritical mother might be, in the conventional sense, the greatest character H&S ever brought to screen.
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Boring Return Home
claudio_carvalho27 February 2010
A Sicilian that emigrated to the United States of America fifteen years ago return to his hometown in Sicily to visit his mother. He has conversations with a orange picker in the train station and then with another passenger in the train. When he meets his mother, she discloses revelations about his childhood and her sentimental life. Last he has a small talk with a knife-sharpener.

"Sicilia!" is a boring movie about the homecoming of a man after many years living abroad. Along his journey back home, the situation of the unsophisticated Sicily is disclosed through his conversations with his countrymen. This low-budget black and white film might be interesting for people from Sicily or from First World Countries, but I found it dull and painful to watch. This movie was released in Brazil on VHS by Cult Films Distributor. My vote is three.

Title (Brazil): "Gente da Sicília" ("People of the Sicily")
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Pretentious movie with bad acting on a gorgeous text
alesmadro8 June 2012
"Conversazione in Sicilia" by Vittorini is one of the most interesting books of Italian literature from the 1st half of 20th century (in 1950 an edition with wonderful b/w pictures by Luigi Crescenzi was published: a real gem). The novel consists basically in dialogs between the protagonist, Silvestro, and people he meets on his voyage to his native country, Sicily, that he left years ago to live in Milan (and not in New York, as the orange seller at the beginning of the movie believes - with Silvestro indulging him in the error, by pretending he's an immigrant coming back). The dialogs oscillate between vivid descriptions of past events and philosophical considerations on good and evil or on man and world (like in the stunning dialog with the knife grinder, which seems to come out of some ancient tragedy). In the movie, however, the really bad acting spoils completely the text. If you use non professional actors, you can't expect that they will be able to render convincingly such a complex, multi-layered text as the one by Vittorini. While watching, I wondered the whole time, whether the bad acting was due to the actors' inability in memorizing their lines, to their absence of training, to their not being professionals, or to the directors' will to produce a sense of estrangement (for which I couldn't see any reason - neither artistic/aesthetic, nor textual/political). It was like they were reading the text for the firs time, without knowing where exactly to make a pause. They would stop a sentence abruptly just to re-assume it by adding a final word, as if they had just remembered that they forgot it. Again, if this was done willingly, the result was extremely annoying. The filming itself seemed to be the work of non professionals - even if the directors are indeed professionals: long takes from a running train or slow takes of a landscape with a city, with no particular artistic or aesthetic value, just something everyone holding a camera could do with no particular effort. They did nothing to conceal the fact that they were filming in present Sicily (when the train leaves Catania, you see ugly modern buildings and a freeway), even if the text is so obviously connected to the Thirties (starting with the prices and the references to the War, which is evidently WWI). I had the whole time the impression of someone deciding to make a movie by taking his/her cam-recorder and asking some friends to do the acting without rehearsals. As much as I love Vittorini's book, I really hated the movie.
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