April 2, 2013

Jean-Claude Biette on SICILIA! (1999)

Sicilia! is a film that shines both in its own inherent vision and as a highlight in the work of the Straubs, a height we can reach without extra tools. If, according to the generous idea of Manoel de Oliveira, a film's true nationality is the country in which it is filmed, then a great deal of the Straubs' oeuvre is Italian, even if we hear a lot of German and French in it. Few of their films are about the modern world in a direct sense: they are rather elegant peplums from the theatre in which antiquity is always revived, brought alive into modern history. With Sicilia!, it is the Italy of the 20th century, when Mussolini was enacting his parody of the Empire of the Caesars. It is the exploitation of Sicily, the almost African earth, a South that tries for as long as it can to resist the North, and the film a black-and-white poem of the outraged world. Thanks to the voices of actors who have never before spoken Italian so amusingly, the Italy of today is physically represented. It is incomplete, with its empty spaces, intense: the lost soul of Italian cinema. When, as is here the case, it is about oranges that cannot be sold, fish grilled on coals, police suspicions, returns to the mother's house, nightly clandestine meetings in the valley that ultimately come to light, functional objects that no one buys anymore, the loss of manual thinking, what is taking place here is the excess or the insufficiency which, as is true in life, gives rise to a film.





(From the English translation reproduced in the 
Courtisane Festival 2013 Catalogue, here.)

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