Saturday, April 28, 2012

DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming debut: Don't miss Giuseppe Tornatore's masterpiece BAARÌA

Single-handedly making streaming a necessity (unless you've got a Blu-ray player: in which case, order the movie that way), the recent addition of BAARÌA to DVD/Blu-ray/streaming capability is something for which great gratitude is called. The latest from Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, The Unknown Woman and other fine films), this modern masterpiece -- and I do not use that word lightly -- takes us to the writer/director's home town of Bagheria (for which, I am guessing, Baarìa is a kind of nickname) over a period that spans more than three generations.

Tornatore, shown at right, takes a major risk with this film by making it move so fast via very short scenes that often fly by and seem to last only long enough to provide content without any accompanying depth. This proves not true, however; that depth arrives as the movie grows and builds, and we become hugely involved with the three generations of the Sicilian family whose story is told here. Even the subsidiary characters take on surprising weight, and the movie's real themes -- class, Italian culture and mores, the uses of politics and the importance of family -- come quickly to the fore and stay there, accumulating both power and force.

The photography (Enrico Lucidi) is ravishing, the town and sets and accouterments are often eye-popping, and the lead performances from mostly unknowns (on this side of the Atlantic, at least) are stellar and on-point.

The movie begins in the time of Mussolini (above) and continues through to nearly present-day (below).

Tornatore uses a small child on an errand to begin his film, with a scene of running through the town faster and faster -- and then, in a feat of breathtaking beauty and surprise, lifts us-- and the film -- into the heavens and to an overview of life that it grasps and holds onto throughout.

Toward the end the filmmaker manages to combine present and past into a single unity that seems both bold and heart-breaking. He uses ancient customs -- broken eggs -- to herald events and even gives us a sweet look at how early Sicilian home cooling systems worked (at left). Tornatore uses place and character so keenly and poignant-ly that brief moments shown early come back to haunt us with surprisingly effectiveness.

We see and hear much about Italian political parties -- Communists, Socialists, Christian Democrats, reformists and more -- with the icing on the cake provided by one family, the father of which explains its voting process, guaranteed to render all votes useless.

This is the second time I've seen Baarìa; the first was two years ago when the film made its USA debut as part of the FSLC's Open Roads series. (Sadly, it never received a theatrical release here in the USA.) I found watching it again as riveting as the first time, with the overall mark it made as strong as ever, even though many specific scenes seemed new. I suspect the film will become one of those I will watch again every few years, experiencing its joy and pain anew. You should see it at least once.

Baarìa, at a speedy and gorgeous two-and-one-half hour length, is available now for sale, rental or streaming via Amazon, or for rental and streaming at Netflix, and for rental at Blockbuster.  I imagine you can find it elsewhere, too, but these three sources should give you a good start....

The photo above are from the film itself, 
except for that of Signore Tornatore, 
which comes courtesy of

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