Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Open Roads 2013: Giovanna Taviani's IL RISCATTO (The Rescue or Redemption)

Shown as part of the Open Roads program that included the longer documentary, Handmade CinemaIL RISCATTO (click and scroll down), which evidently translates to either "The Rescue" (as the FSLC program notes have it) or "Redemption" as the English subtitles during the film itself translated the word), by Giovanna Taviani (shown below), tells but a tiny part of the story of the ex-criminal (from Naple's criminal organization, the Camorra) and ex-prisoner Salvatore Striano, who starred as Brutus in the recent film from the Taviani BrothersCaesar Must Die. (Ms Taviani is both the daughter and niece of these two film-making greats.) On the basis of what we see in this very short, very impressionistic and very limited film, both definitions serve the movie quite well.

Signore Striano (below) appears to believe (and actually tells us here ) that he has been "redeemed" -- by art, as he would have it. But he has also been "rescued" by artists such as Matteo Garrone (who used him in Gomorrah) and by the Tavianis -- first by the brothers, who gave him a leading role in their film (which did wonders for his reputation), and now by the next generation in this short film that is making its way around various festivals, showing Striano in a very positive light.

The fellow is impressive. I was blown away by Caesar Must Die, and also enjoyed Ms Taviani's short film, which gives us a tiny part of the man's history, lets him speak a bit and lead us around the little town where the Taviani brothers were born, and where the World War II events of their first huge success, The Night of the Shooting Stars, took place. In the course of the film, Striano explains that the Italian partisans who fought the Nazis killed for freedom and ideals, but that he himself, as a member of the Camorra, killed for nothing.

Striano's own personal freedom came, he says, via his introduction to literature -- Shakespeare and the like, -- and he has now played everything from Brutus to Ariel (we get to see a bit of both performances here). He's a good actor, too, with a somewhat showy style, and in fact, we get the sense that the guy is always acting. He knows how and where his bread is buttered. (He sometimes seemed to me just a little like the main character in Garrone's new film Reality, who is also played by a prisoner.)

Ms Taviani's impressionistic little movie is lovely, as far as it goes --combining sounds, music, literature, visuals (and Salvatore) into a most beguiling mix. Her shots of the surrounding countryside and architecture (below) are as rich and beautiful as her shots of the prison (above) are cold and empty, and when Striano appears, as well, the movie threatens to take off. Yet to really learn who this man is would take a long, full-length film, so this 22-minute movie finally feels like little more than a tease.

At the Q&A following the presentation, the filmmaker talked about how she came to realize that something more was needed about Salvatore and how the town of her father and uncle was important to the story. She also explained how "riscatto" has its two meanings, both of which work, though the audience seemed mostly set upon making redemption the more important one in this case. "How is Salvatore dealing with his success?" someone asked the filmmaker. "He is going through a very positive moment," the director told us, having now acted in Gomorrah and Caesar Must Die, in various plays and now her film -- as well as making personal appearances all over.

Taviani told us that Striano explained to her that, perhaps because she was a women, she has been able to bring out more in him. Usually he plays the tougher roles, the corrupt mobster, the more macho men. When he learned that she was going to America, he told her: "Tell the Americans that I exist because art exists." Hmmm. Well, OK. TrustMovies personally is of the mind that great art can indeed leave its mark upon people. Maybe at some point, Ms Taviani will really delve into this man and show us who he was, who he is, and explore how and why that difference came about.