- 28 Jul 10
Rarely dull, but unfortunately it's also shapeless and overextended
When you see the name Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, Malina) on the opening credits you can be assured there’s some seriously saccharine content to follow. In this respect, at least, Baaria is a roaring success. Ragamuffins in short trousers, pouty girls in diaphanous dresses, and superstitious old crones are all present and correct as this folksy semi-biographical drama dashes across the screen.
An intergenerational epic spanning most of the twentieth century, Mr. Tornatore's breathlessly presented picture follows the intertwined destinies of an extended Sicilian clan. Early in the proceedings, our hero Peppino (son of Cicco, a shepherd with a bent for self-improvement and reading) witnesses various injustices inflicted by both fascists and mafiosa. He commits to Communism and rises through the party ranks; it’s not much but it’s as close to a story as Baaria can muster.
Racing through a history that relays across fathers and sons and grandsons, this old school Euro-pudding is rarely dull but it is shapeless and overextended. When one character claims that Sicilians "...try to embrace the world, but our arms are too short," he could easily be describing the film’s own ambitiousness.
And then there’s the slaughter; a controversial sequence depicting the real-life killing of a cow with an iron punch driven into the skull (minus pain-relief) is artistically questionable and ethically dubious at a time when a CGI animal might have been dispatched at a fraction the cost. It is, moreover, entirely pointless in a film where ethnographic details are solely used for heavy handed symbolic purposes. Look here, it’s a blind town planner representing the haphazard and occasionally corrupted modernisation of Italy! And so on.
Did we mention that the movie is bookended by shots of a flying child or that the ‘only a dream’ denouement recalls a certain outrageous shower scene from Dallas? This would, of course, be fine if we weren’t positive that the director was going for A Mid Summer Night’s Dream.