Celebrated Italian writer-director Vittorio Taviani, winner of the Palme dOr and Berlin Golden Bear, has died aged 88. He passed after a long illness, his daughter has confirmed to Italian media.
The director formed one half an acclaimed filmmaking duo with his brother Paolo: the two were known as the Taviani Brothers. The siblings became household names in Italy in the 1960s and worked on more than 20 movies together including 1977 Palme dOr winner Padre Padrone and docudrama Caesar Must Die, which won the Golden Bear for best film at Berlin in 2012.
The former charted the story of Gavino Ledda, the son of a Sardinian shepherd, and how he managed to escape his harsh, almost barbaric existence by slowly educating himself, despite violent opposition from his brutal father. Caesar Must Die is the story of inmates at a high-security prison in Rome who prepare for a public performance of Shakespeares Julius Caesar.
So close was the brothers partnership that Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni called them individually PaoloVittorio. The pair often adapted high-brow literature, including works by the Italian author Luigi Pirandello (Kaos and You Laugh), Russias Leo Tolstoy (Resurrection and Night Sun) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Elective Affinities). The last movie on which they shared a directing credit was 2015 title Wondrous Boccaccio, whose cast included Italian actors Riccardo Scamarcio and Kim Rossi Stuart.
‘Antebellum’ has a ‘Get Out’ vibe, but doesn’t live up to its twist
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definite..
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definitely shouldn’t be spoiled even a little. Once that revelation is absorbed, however, the movie becomes less distinctive and inspired, reflecting an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist that made “Get Out” a breakthrough, without the same ability to pay off the premise.
Originally destined for a theatrical run, the movie hits digital platforms trumpeting a “Get Out” pedigree in its marketing campaign, since there’s an overlap among the producing teams.
More directly, the film marks the directing debut of Gerard Bush + Christopher Renz, who have championed social-justice issues through their advertising work. The opening script features a quote from author William Faulkner, whose intent will eventually become clearer: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
If that sounds like a timely means of drawing a line from the horrors of slavery to the racism of today, you’ve come to the right place.
The story begins on a plantation, where the brutal overseers carry out grisly punishments against those tilling the fields. A few have just tried to escape, led by Veronica (Janelle Monae), and they pay a heavy price for their resistance, which does nothing to curb her defiance.
Also written by Bush + Renz, the script take too long before revealing what makes “Antebellum” different, but the middle portion — a “The Twilight Zone”-like phase when it’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on — is actually the film’s strongest. (Even the trailer arguably gives away too much, so the less one knows, the better.)
The final stretch, by contrast, veers into more familiar thriller territory, and feels especially rushed toward the end, leaving behind a host of nagging, unanswered questions. That provides food for thought, but it’s also what separates the movie from something like “Get Out,” which deftly fleshed out its horror underpinnings.
Although the filmmakers (in a taped message) expressed disappointment that the movie wasn’t making its debut in theaters, in a strange way, the on-demand format somewhat works in its favor. In the press notes, Bush says the goal was “to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped ‘Antebellum’ would spur.”
“Antebellum” should add to that discussion, so mission accomplished on that level. Monae is also quite good in her first leading film role (she did previously star in the series “Homecoming’s” second season), but otherwise, most of the characters remain underdeveloped.