Friday, October 10, 2008

THE NIGHT OF SHOOTING STARS (Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, 1982, Italy) “This is a simple story... but not an easy one to tell.” A touching and violent film about love, war, and death told from a little girl’s naïve and imaginative perspective who believes she is going on a great adventure. In reality, her family is fleeing their village because their houses are mined and the local fascist Nazi sympathizers have told them to gather at the local Catholic church or be executed. Most villagers believe that god will protect them and take communion but the only flesh and blood experienced is their own, ripped apart, burned, and spilled by the Nazis. The remaining villagers escape into the Tuscan countryside hoping to encounter advancing American troops and live moment by moment, trying to stave off death until their savior arrives. And it not Jesus…it’s the good old US of A (Alex says, in his most sarcastic tone). The group encounters madness, treachery, and civil war along their way and the story is able to capture the childlike innocence of adventure amid this despicable brutality. The film can be slapstick and absurdly violent which throws the viewer askew; it keeps us off-balance by being morally confusing and outright hilarious at the same moment! The narrative is structured in such a way that the film is a bedtime story being told to the protagonist’s child, describing the magical night she survived the burning of her village when she was six years old. The acting is sometimes stilted and overblown which is disconcerting at first; since the story is often seen through a child’s eyes, this is how she remembers (or chooses to remember) it as an adult. This is probably the film that inspired Roberto Benigni to make LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and if you like his film, you’ll adore this one. (B)

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