Italian director Marco Tullio Giordana
was unknown until his epic "The Best of Youth" was
released in 2003. As BAMcinematek’s series "The Next Director:
Marco Tullio Giordana" makes clear, he has been making vital,
significant films for nearly 30 years.
BAM’s ongoing "Next Director" programs give audiences a chance to discover talented but unfamiliar filmmakers. The Giordana retro - which runs Nov. 8-12 - includes five features and two shorts, all of which show off an artist whose concerns are as worldly as they are personal.
Of course, "The Best of Youth" (scheduled for Nov. 11, preceded by an introduction by Giordana himself) was the introduction for many viewers to an uncompromising cinematic talent. A panoramic overview of two brothers’ very different lives over a period of 34 years, with convoluted historical events as a background, "The Best of Youth" stunningly combines the intimacy of the best character studies with the sweep of historical epics.
Most impressive about "The Best of Youth" is that, although it was picked up for distribution by Miramax, a studio with a reputation - whether earned or not is hard to discern - for preferring to trim many of the films that it releases, "Youth" made it to theaters without seeing the scissors.
The "Next Director" series opens Nov. 8 with a new print of Giordana’s first feature, 1979’s "To Love the Damned." It’s very much a period piece: a veteran of the radical movement of 1968 returns a decade later to his hometown to see that all of his fellow ex-radicals are now either normal businessmen or abnormal addicts. Although it never reaches the heights of similar films by Marco Bellocchio - who has been exploring the fallout of the 60s radical movement throughout his career - Giordana’s debut is remarkably mature, with a healthy sense of humor.
"To Love the Damned" is preceded by Giordana’s short film from 1996, "White Shoes," which he made as part of a UNICEF anthology. (The director will introduce both films.)
Giordana’s latest film follows on Nov. 9. "Once You’re Born, You Can No Longer Hide" is the director’s 2005 exploration of the immense and delicate problem of immigration in Italy. Like Gianni Amelio - whose more expansive 1995 masterpiece "Lamerica" forced Italian viewers to confront the very real difficulties facing immigrants - Giordana personalizes this issue, but moves closer to melodrama by placing a young Italian boy in the middle.
I mean that literally: the boy falls out of his father’s boat and is rescued by a ship carrying various illegal immigrants. Needless to say, he persuades his estranged parents to adopt a brother and sister, and the movie’s melodramatics hit a high point. For once, Giordana eschews subtlety, but with persuasive performances - particularly from the young actor Matteo Gadola - "Once You’re Born" hits its mark.
"Especially on Sunday," a trilogy of shorts written by Tonino Guerra, will be shown Nov. 10. Giordana’s segment, "Snow on Fire," is the most accomplished. Giordana’s look at organized crime, 2000’s "One Hundred Steps" (Nov. 12) is based on a true story about a Sicilian agitator whose mysterious death prior to Election Day brings about intimations of foul play by the Mafia.
Similarly, Giordana’s best film to date, "Pasolini: An Italian Crime" (also showing Nov. 12), explores the possibilities of a cover-up. Giordana’s superlative docudrama about the grisly death of the provocative Italian poet/essayist/Marxist/homosexual/filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini is a complex blend of newsreel footage, dramatic reenactments, multiple viewpoints and conjecture about what happened on Nov. 2, 1975.
Although a teenager was soon arrested for the murder and was found guilty at trial, there was much contradictory evidence. Giordana reopens the case skillfully, and he painstakingly shows how convenience led everybody involved - police, press, even many citizens - to overlook troubling aspects of the case.
The police treated the whole affair as if it were simply a matter of two homosexuals going about their sordid business. Incompetently, cops failed to cordon off the murder site until it was too late, ignored obvious witnesses and left Pasolini’s car out in the rain.
While recounting such events with his very authentic actors, Giordana also uses actual newsreel footage to convey Pasolini’s importance as an outspoken leftist critic of the government. The most compelling sequence is the trial, when the accused’s account butts heads with that of a forensic expert who maps out his reenactment based on the evidence. Giordana shows both versions - and there’s no doubt which one we’re supposed to believe.
Like all of Giordana’s work, "Pasolini: An Italian Crime" is a necessary exploration of Italy’s political, social and psychological pulse.
"The Next Director: Marco Tullio Giordana," plays at BAMCinematek, 30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene, Nov. 8-12. Tickets are $10, $7 seniors. For a complete list of screening dates and times, call (718) 636-4100 or visit the Web site at www.bam.org.