Two excellent new films have just been released on Curzon Home Video bringing powerful doses of Sicilian sunshine, but with some disturbing shadows.
Il mio corpo (pictured above), a powerful and beautiful documentary, follows the lives of two young men living different but equally desperate lives in the margins of society in Sicily. Oscar is a teen from a dysfunctional family who works for his domineering father scavenging for scrap metal on illegal dumps, and Stanley is a Nigerian refugee working as a cleaner in a church, a grape picker and shepherd.
Director Michele Pennetta alternates these parallel lives with a gentle lyricism without hiding the stark realities of their pitiless existence, their faces and bodies soulful, exhausted, enduring. As Stanley cooks and helps a Nigerian friend with his visa application, and Oscar dodges threats by his father, both are revealed to have been abandoned by their mothers as boys. But both also enjoy scenes of joyous escapism, Stanley dancing at a club with fellow Africans and swimming in the same glittering sea where so many migrants have perished; Oscar freewheeling acrobatically on his bike down a long hillside. Both are survivors.
The film is beautifully shot in the arid landscape in the provincia di Caltanisetta, both magnificent and littered with ruins such as the disused mine where the two finally meet by moonlight before a poetic finale scored by Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. A superb, sympathetic and important portrayal of struggles and dreams in an Italy that is far from our experience but that deserves to be seen.
The Macaluso Sisters (Le Sorelle Macaluso), is a drama directed by Emma Dante based on her own three-act theatre play. The five orphaned sisters are introduced as children and adolescents in their Palermo apartment above which is an attic filled with doves which they rent out for celebrations. On a day trip to the beach a tragic accident occurs whose effects are played out for the rest of their lives over the remaining two acts.
With great originality Emma Dante multiplies her cast with different actresses playing the sisters in middle and old age, haunted by flashbacks of their earlier selves. All are superb, capable of the ferocious physical bravura and deep emotions that the turbulent and lyrical drama demands, its key moments underscored by the music of Satie and songs by Franco Battiato and Gianna Nannini, and by the gorgeous imagery of flocks of soaring birds. Sicily has long been the scene of some of Italian cinema’s greatest and most innovative classics, and these two films prove the island’s inspiration and native talent is as potent as ever.