The Brothers Taviani
For 10 years after their masterpiece Padre Padrone (1977) was first shown in the United States, the films of Vittorio and Paolo Taviani were staples in the dwindling number of American theaters still showing foreign films. This weekend and next, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura offers a rediscovery of their arresting work with a series of five features at the Delancey Street Screening Room. Inspired by Roberto Rossellini's 1946 Paisan while they were still in their teens, the brothers intercut scenes from his Germany Year Zero into their The Meadow (1979), the first major film of Roberto's daughter Isabella. Usually the Tavianis leaven this neorealist heritage with bursts of wild fantasy, like the animals that think aloud in Padre Padrone, a moving story of a peasant boy's struggle to educate himself and escape a brutal father. Good Morning Babylon (1987), the most recent of the films in the series, is an extended tribute to both film fantasy and self-education, tracing the fortunes of two Italian immigrants who arrive in the U.S. in time to carve the elephants of Intolerance for director D.W. Griffith. The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982) contains a goodly admixture of whimsy in telling a dark story (peasants fleeing fascists in the waning days of the world war) as a tale for kids. Finally, Kaos (1984), at three hours the Tavianis' most ambitious film, follows the formula of harsh reality amid folkloric fantasy in an episodic movie drawn from the Sicilian stories of Luigi Pirandello. The point of view is that of a raven aflight over an eroded landscape; the perfect symbol for the role of nature in their work -- a living presence amid all the politics.
-- Gregg Rickman
See the Delancey Street Screening Room entry in Reps Etc., Page 71, for a complete schedule.