by Ciprì & Maresco

When the talk, particularly an appreciative one, is about new Italian authors, names of directors such as Ferrario, Calopresti, Mazzacurati, Virzì and Soldini are singled out while Ciprì & Maresco are seldom, if ever, named. How come? Is it because they’re indubitably the best, and thus past mentioning? Or is it just because nobody digs them? Their movies surely keep our eyes forcefully open on realities that are usually kept concealed, things we have withdrawn from, things that nobody actually feels like watching; but this sounds like a moot explanation for the oblivion in which Ciprì & Maresco’s works sink shortly after premiering. Besides, in the case of their latest film, there can be no complain about lack of publicity. As somebody might know, Totò Who Lived Twice had initially failed to obtain clearance by the Italian Censorship Board, and thus could not be distributed in the whole country; approximately every Italian newspaper covered the news and much was written, but most of it was about freedom of expression. This is the point: even though many critics have praised the movie, few have dared, or meant to, explain the reason why it was an important film to them and why it was worth watching. So what’s Totò Who Lived Twice?

To begin with, it’s an astounding, lucid and profound movie; but, nonetheless, it is a cry of despair and anguish. There’s anguish in the description of a world debased beyond belief, an open-air sewer dwelled only by rats, dogs and repulsive, hideous human beings, to whom life has really denied everything; there’s despair in the relationship of these human beings with sex, displayed to us every time as a necessity methodically denied, as an instrument for the satisfaction of bodily needs, as an “ailment”. There’s more despair in the craving for love, sytematically defeated by a reality where the denial of any form of respect and human dignity invariably prevails. Having said this, is there still any sense in being shocked by the sight of one of these men attempting an embrace with a statue of the Virgin Mary? Wouldn’t it be better to wonder how all of this can exist (and this is only one question among many that might arise)?

The talk about the movie isn’t over yet, because what I consider as the major difference between the two Sicilian film-makers and the rest of Italian directors is the building-up work behind every single frame of theirs and the extreme concern for formal details, both achieved with a taste akin to that underpinning the works of the silent film era masters (Dreyer, Murnau, and not only them); the results are images of such a beauty and such a poetic force as Italian movies have forgot up to now, but that today seem scarcely appealing to either the “big audience” or the film amateurs.

Totò Who Lived Twice has been running in Turin for less than a week; the day I saw it there were hardly thirty people in the house. In the end I thought that it must really be thus: nobody digs Ciprì & Maresco. I didn’t dig April. Somebody might wonder what that’s got to do with it. Somebody else might answer: that hasn’t got to do with it but in a way that has…


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