Actors: Omero Antonutti, Claudio Bigagli
Directors: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani
Format: NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Cohen Media Group
Release Date: February 16, 2016
There are many sibling filmmaker teams, and I’m sure that each has their own unique ways of distributing the directorial duties. For the longest time Joel Coen was listed as the film’s director with Ethan taking producer credits, despite both working together in all aspects of the process. The Taviani brothers, Paolo and Vittorio, have a completely different approach. Although they always share the director credit, each takes turn directing from one scene to the next, neither one interfering with the work of the other. The result is no less seamless, as can clearly be seen in three of their classics included in this Blu-ray film collection.
The first film is their 1977 winner of the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or, based upon an autobiography by Gavino Ledda. Padre Padrone tells the story of Gavino’s relationship with his sheep farmer father (Omero Antonutti) who pulled him from school at the age of six in order to help with the flock. Treated with the same abuse at the hand of his father as was received by his own father, Gavino seeks to break the cycle by achieving his own personal goal of educating himself and escaping to a life in civilization. Once Gavino has grown to a young man (played by Saverio Marconi), he is sent to join the army, which ends up providing him the tools he missed when his father refused him an education.
Each of the Taviani’s films are grounded in realism, tinged with moments of whimsical formalism to allow us a glimpse of the magic behind the harshness of everyday life. Padre Padrone was grounded in the autobiographical elements, whereas The Night of the Shooting Stars deals with even bleaker recollections of a small Tuscan town caught between German forces and an advancing American army during the close of World War II. The fantastical elements must also be even more pronounced in The Night of the Shooting Stars, the entire narrative told through the eyes of the youngest member of the town as a fairytale as recounted to her own children many years later. This does not mean that the horrors of war go unrecognized, but simply showed the young girl’s perspective in attempting to understand the events. Though the adults were aware of the constant danger, the young child secretly enjoyed the excitement of the adventure within the ignorance of her own mortality.
Kaos is the final film included, and it is easily the most ambitious of the trio. With a running time over three hours, Kaos tells four unrelated stories and an epilogue, all adapted from the stories written by Luigi Pirandello. The title is supposedly taken from the name of the estate that Pirandello grew up in, though the stories vary in theme and tone. After an opening in which an abused bird has a bell placed around its neck to serve as a recognizable returning character flying us from one narrative to the next, Kaos begins with “The Other Son.” This first story is about a Sicilian mother (Margarita Lozano) who longs for correspondence from her loathsome sons living in America while shunning the decent one still living close by, for reasons only revealed toward the end of the segment.
“Moon Sickness” attempts to lighten the mood with a story about a man who begins to behave madly under a full moon, allowing his wife a rather convenient opportunity for adultery with her cousin. I find all aspects of this story rather distasteful, making it my least favorite in the bunch. On the other side of the humor spectrum, “The Jar” is my favorite of the stories, involving a battle of wits between a landowner and a man accidentally stuck in the expensive olive jar he was hired to mend. “Requiem” retains the themes of class and social order with the story of a group of rural shepherds (not unlike those from Padre Padrone) who protest the local landowner for the right to bury their own dead. And the film closes out with a gorgeous cinematic epilogue in which Pirandello returns to his native Sicilian town and is told a childhood story (not unlike the one in The Night of the Shooting Stars) by the spirit of his dead mother.
Along with these films being available on Blu-ray for the first time, The Taviani Brothers Collection comes with a new two-hour interview with the filmmakers, split up over the first two discs. The last disc includes the 2015 re-release trailers.
Entertainment Value: 5.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10
Historical Significance: 8.5/10
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