Sicilia!

19 April, 2013 - 16:00
SPHINX cinema
No filmmaker should make a film without it having a minimum of what Cézanne spoke about when he watched his mountain for years on end before being able, one fine day, to capture it and say, ‘Look at this mountain, once it was fire’.

The cinema of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet is one of the uttermost concentration, capturing the whirlwind of the world in every tiny inch of matter. The sensible and the intelligible cannot be separated. That is what they have learned from Friedrich Hölderlin: the dream of the community to come is not embodied in laws and governments, but in gestures of life and forms of nature. But for there to be a community, it must be divided, and that is what they have learned from Bertold Brecht: the changeability of the world does not insist on agreement, but on its contradictoriness. Between Brecht and Hölderlin, materialism and mysticism, at once dialectical and lyrical, the films of Straub and Huillet point to an abandoned yet irrefutable truth: we do not live in the best of possible worlds. The roots of Fascism, war, injustice and resistance are revisited by way of much older dramas, recounted by authors such as Cesare Pavese and Elio Vittorini. But these texts are not more important than the people reciting them, the space they find themselves in, or the movement of light and colour shimmering through. What matters, in the end, is the sensible intensity which is always there, always in the present, affirming the enduring capacity for the construction of a new common world: a community of sense.

Sicilia!

Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet
,
DE, FR, IT
,
1999
,
35mm
,
b&w
,
66'

“Sicilia! is a film that shines both in its own inherent vision and as a highlight in the work of the Straubs, a top that we can reach without extra tools. If, according to the generous idea of Manoel de Oliveira, a film’s true nationality is the country in which it is filmed, then a great deal of the Staubs’ oeuvre is Italian, even if we hear a lot of German and French in it. Few of their films are about the modern world in a direct sense: they are rather elegant peplums from the theatre in which antiquity is always revived, brought alive into modern history. With Sicilia!, it is the Italy of the 20th century, when Mussolini was enacting his parody of the Empire of the Caesars. It is the exploitation of Sicily, the almost African earth, a South that tries for as long as it can to resist the North, and the film a black-and-white poem of the outraged world. Thanks to the voices of actors who had never before spoken Italian so amusingly, the Italian of today is physically represented. It is incomplete, with its empty spaces, intense: the lost soul of Italian cinema. When, as is here the case, it is about oranges that cannot be sold, fish grilled on charcoal, police suspicions, returns to the mother's house, nightly clandestine meetings in the valley that ultimately come to light, functional objects that no one buys any more, the loss of manual thinking, what is taking place here is the excess or the insufficiency which, as is true in life, gives rise to a film.” (Jean-Claude Biette)