Jan 9, 2012

15th Jan 2012; Francesco Rosi's Christ Stopped At Eboli

Christ Stopped At Eboli
Film by : Francesco Rosi
Country : Italy
Year: 1979
Runtime:145 minutes
Italian withEnglish sub titles
15th Jan 2012; 5.45pm
Perks Mini Theater
In 1935, the painter Carlo Levi was arrested in Turin for his anti-fascist activities – he was a founding member of the Mussolini-baiting Giustizia e Libertà group – and, as was the practice, sent to a remote area of rural Italy to muse upon his transgressions well away from the company of urban intellectuals. During his period of exile in the Lucania region he observed a way of life which was so remote from his experience as to be completely alien. He did a good deal of painting and opened a small surgery, making use of the skills which he had gained as a medical student at University. The time he spent in exile had a profound effect on his social conscience. This film is based on his 1945 book about the experience of exile.The title comes from the notion that Christ never got any further than Eboli, that rural Italy was too much even for God, yet the impression which Christ Stopped At Eboli creates is one of deep, abiding spirituality and a good deal of this comes out of Gian Maria Volonte’s performance. Volonte was always a great actor, capable of an uncomfortable intensity which makes it hard to take your eyes off him, but I think this is one of his best parts because he submerges his own powerful personality into a character who is required, for much of the film, to be very passive.Christ Stopped At Eboli exerts a quite remarkable emotional force, pulling us back into another time and place with a quiet, unobtrusive skill. The setting – rural Italy in the 1930s – is completely alien to us yet somehow, through the transcendent skill of director Francesco Rosi, the film makes us feel a nostalgic yearning for something we have never experienced. It’s as impressive a piece of work as the great Italian filmmaker ever produced and considering that he also made Salvatore Giuliano, Three Brothers, The Mattei Affair, Illustrious Corpses and Hands Over The City, that’s high praise indeed.

Francesco Rosi

Born in Naples in 1922, the year of Fascism’s ascent to power, Rosi grew up in a comfortable middle-class household. He was introduced to cinema quite early by his father. Widely-known and respected both in Italy and abroad, Francesco Rosi has continued for half a century to practise an intensely-charged, politically-engaged and socially-committed cinema which has quite justly earned him the title of Italy’s cinematic “poet of civic courage”.

Francesco Rosi Rosi was one of the central figures of the politicised post-neorealist 1960s and 70s of Italian cinema, along with Gillo Pontecorvo, early Pasolini, the Taviani brothers, Ettore Scola and Valerio Zurlini. Dealing with a corrupt postwar Italy, Rosi's movies take on controversial issues, such as Salvatore Giuliano, a film that won him won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 12th Berlin International Film Festival in 1962.The years 1972 to 1976 cemented Rosi's reputation internationally as a director who dealt with controversial subjects.

As he matured as a director his topics for films became less politically oriented and more angled toward literature. Despite the more traditional slant of his later work, Rosi continued to direct until 1997. The 58th edition of the Berlin International Film Festival in 2008 played tribute to Francesco Rosi by screening 13 films in its Homage section, the latter being reserved to filmmakers of outstanding quality and achievement. He received the Honorary Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement on 14 February 2008.

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