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Universal Language :: A Whimsical Fusion of Tehran and Winnipeg
By converting his drab hometown into an exotic land filled with nostalgia, Matthew Rankin seems to be seeking out the universal language of cinema itself. He quits his meaningless job in a Québecois government office and sets out..
EDINBURGH 2024 :: “A SHRINE” Selected for 77th Edinburgh IFF
The festival will feature the world premiere of “A SHRINE” directed by Abdolreza Kahani. This film, a collaborative production between Canada, Iran, and France, is set to compete for the highly esteemed Sean Connery Prize..
KARLOVY VARY 2024 Proxima :: Review: Nothing in Its Place
How far are people willing to go for their political beliefs, and how much can the ideology of a group influence the behavior of an individual? Nothing in Its Place holds up a mirror to more than one revolution..
KARLOVY VARY 2024 :: Noaz Deshe :: Director of Xoftex :: Interview
"I wanted to document the progression of the mental state of stateless people in a refugee camp." The director tells us more about his new film, in which he portrays refugees filming satirical sketches and preparing for a zombie..
KARLOVY VARY 2024 Competition :: Review: Xoftex
Xoftex is the name of a Greek refugee camp for Syrian and Palestinian asylum seekers. To pass the time, camp inhabitants such as Nasser make satirical short films and prepare to make a zombie film. Noaz Deshe explains how he..
Shanghai IFF 2023 :: A Review of 'Cause of Death: Unknown'
The first film by Ali Zarnegar receives an overall acceptable score. The writer and director's extensive experience, including his frequent involvement in short cinema, writing.., has had a positive impact on the film's quality..
Bahar Lellahi :: 40-year-old Iranian Female filmmaker Murdered in Prison
Bahar Lellahi, an Iranian director and screenwriter from the Northern city of Amol and a resident of Tehran, was killed at the Islamic Republic's detention center and was secretly buried in a cemetery near the city of Karaj..
Dead of Night :: A standout feature by Farhad Vilkiji
“Dead of Night”, a standout feature by Farhad Vilkiji, marking his directorial debut, delves into the struggles of an Iranian intellectual navigating political and personal challenges, promising a poignant exploration of human resilience..
BERLINALE 2024 Encounters :: Interview :: Matías Piñeiro
Matías Piñeiro’s experimental, hour-long film 'You Burn Me', an interesting work based on texts by Cesare Pavese and Sappho about the relationship between two women, was included in this year’s Berlinale Encounters program..
Super Size Me :: A terrific cheeky stunt :: small wonder Morgan Spurlock never matched it
'Super Size Me' director Morgan Spurlock dies aged 53. 'Super Size Me' was his masterpiece – a documentary which really did have an effect and challenged the way we think about food..
Cannes 2024 review :: 'The Seed of the Sacred Fig' - A powerful rebellion in the name of art & freedom
Mohammad Rasoulof examines Iran's contemporary tensions through the internalization of turmoil by a family of four. It's a suspenseful and bold call to arms for those..
Sean Baker’s ‘Anora’ Wins Palme d’Or at 2024 Cannes Film Festival
Sean Baker’s Anora has won the Palme d’Or at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, which wrapped Saturday night (May 25). It marks Baker’s second time in Competition, following 2021’s Red Rocket..
Cannes 2024 :: ‘Grand Tour’ :: Review :: In Search of Lost Time
Closer in spirit to an essay film like "Sans Soleil" than to a conventional love story, this lushly abstract travelogue is as gorgeous as it is impenetrable. Miguel Gomes’ Beguiling Colonial Romance Travels from Saigon to Shanghai in..
Cannes 2024 :: ‘All We Imagine as Light’ :: A Sensual Triumph
India’s First Cannes Competition Title in 30 Years Is a Sensual Triumph. Payal Kapadia captures the way two women in Mumbai move through the world with bracing intimacy. It is both dreamlike and like waking up from a dream..
Cannes 2024 :: Mohammad Rasoulof Speaking to IndieWire
Rasoulof Made It to Cannes for ‘Seed of the Sacred Fig,’ but His Perilous Journey Out of Iran Isn’t Over. "I consider making works of art as my right, and there’s no reason why I wouldn’t fight for this right."..
Cannes 2024 :: Donald Trump Origin Tale ‘The Apprentice’ Gets 11-Minute Ovation At Its Cannes World Premiere
The Trumps were on the red carpet this evening at the Cannes Film Festival — sort of — as Ali Abbasi’s The Apprentice world premiered in competition. There was lots of hugs..
Cannes Film Festival 2024 ::
Francis Ford Coppola Finally Talks Megalopolis

The Oscar-winning legend has been the subject of deafening rumors about his self-financed new epic. For the first time in public, he finally got to tell his story...
UPDATE :: I exist to narrate :: Mohammad Rasoulof writes about his forced departure from Iran
By publishing a post on his personal Instagram page, he announced his forced departure from Iran. His writing, which you can read here, is a testament to the many artists who were driven..
The Phoenix (Simorgh) is finally online!
The Phoenix (Simorgh) is a short film Written & Directed by Nora Niasari. It follows Mr Farid, an exiled Iranian actor, who teaches drama to reluctant asylum seeker teenagers inside an Australian Detention Centre..
Films Boutique boards Mohammad Rasoulof’s Cannes Competition title
Berlin-based Films Boutique has secured world sales rights to Mohammad Rasoulof’s 'The Seed Of The Sacred Fig' ahead of its premiere in Competition at Cannes, and has closed a distribution deal in France..
Nika's Last Breath :: BBC World Service Documentaries
Secret document says Iran security forces molested and killed teen protester. An Iranian teenager was sexually assaulted and killed by three men working for Iran's security forces, a leaked document understood to have been..
Cannes Film Festival 2024 :: Michel Hazanavicius & Mohammad Rasoulof Movies in Competition Lineup
Cannes Film Festival has added some international titles to Competition Lineup: Hazanavicius‘ 'The Most Precious of Cargoes' and Rasoulof‘s 'The Seed of the Sacred Fig'..
'Biological Terror?!' :: Speculations about Alidoosti's unknown disease
According to some sources, Taraneh told her colleagues that she passed out during her interrogation by IRGC intelligence agents and then, realized that she was injected with an unknown ampoule, after which she felt dizzy..
Taraneh Alidoosti's mother: Pray for her! Her disease is severe!
The celebrated Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti's mother has announced that her daughter is suffering from an illness of "unknown origin". Earlier, there were reports that Taraneh Alidoosti was ill and hospitalized..
‘The Apprentice’ :: A dive into the underbelly of the American empire
The drama charts a young Donald Trump’s ascent to power through a Faustian deal with the influential right-wing lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn. A first look at the forthcoming film from Ali Abbasi, set to premiere at Cannes..
STOCKFISH 2024 :: Review: Tove’s Room
A new biopic about Danish poet Tove Ditlevsen and her tortured marriage to the sadistic news editor Victor Andreasen. We’re in Copenhagen in 1969, and the entire action of this tense, neurotic – yet very intriguing – kammerspiel takes place..
American Fiction :: Movie Review
Jeffrey Wright gives a knockout performance in this edgy, Oscar-nominated comedy. Cord Jefferson marries broad humour with affecting familial dysfunction and biting observations on race. This season’s edgiest comedy arrives with richly deserved Oscar nominations for..
CPH:DOX 2024 :: Review: Silent Trees
Zwiefka – whose last film, Vika! has enjoyed a healthy festival run and is still travelling the world – now trains her lens on a completely different topic: the story of a Kurdish refugee girl stranded in the no man’s land between Belarus and Poland...
CPH:DOX 2024 :: Review: Immortals
Immortals is a dystopian film that turns into an ode to fragility, and it shows the contrasting feelings of those who allowed themselves the luxury of hoping that David might kill Goliath. Maja Tschumi’s film is built around the hopes and broken dreams, but most of all the..
Exiled Iranian Filmmakers Call Out AMPAS Over Omission
Exiled Iranian Filmmakers (IIFMA) has written to AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) to protest the omission of murdered Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui from the In Memoriam segment of the Academy Award..
Oscar 2024 :: How to Watch Every 2024 Oscar-Nominated Movie
It’s time to fire up your Letterboxd, roller-skate out of the real world, and head off to movie land. The 2024 Oscar nominations have been officially announced, giving you a perfect watchlist for catching up on all the films you..
Berlin: Indie Juries Pick :: ‘Sex’, ‘Dying’ and ‘Cake’
Matthias Glasner's German family epic 'Sterben' (Dying), Iranian feature 'My Favourite Cake,' and Dag Johan Haugerud's Norwegian drama 'Sex' picked up multiple awards from the independent juries at the 74th Berlinale..
BERLINALE 2024 Awards :: Mati Diop’s Dahomey bags the Golden Bear
The 74th Berlinale (15-25 February) was brought to a close tonight by the traditional awards ceremony at the Berlinale Palast, which saw the triumph of Mati Diop’s Dahomey, the winner of this year’s Golden Bear..
BERLINALE 2024 :: Competition Review: Architecton
Several thousand years of architectural history are woven together in Kossakovsky's visionary blockbuster, which almost without dialogue - but with images as sharp as flint and a soundtrack as massive as a pillow - is a total cinematic..
BERLINALE 2024 :: Review: Afterwar
An immersive and uncategorisable film, shot over a period of 15 years, was made in close collaboration with its four Kosovar protagonists. A dark chapter in modern European history draws to a close. Haunted by memories of the past and caught in an uncertain state of limbo..
BERLINALE 2024 Competition :: Review: My Favourite Cake
All eyes were on writer-directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha – or, rather, their absence – at the world premiere of their new film, My Favourite Cake, which has just made its debut in the Competition section of..
NAVALNY (2022) :: Navalny’s Plight in a Russian Prison Highlighted
The fact that this documentary movie involves one of the most brazen incidents of state sponsored assassination in memory means this is a unique document of a very singular man. After almost being poisoned to death in 2020..
CPH:DOX 2024 :: The line-up of the 2024 CPH:DOX competitions
CPH:DOX unveils the films nominated across all six award categories. The selection features 66 films in competition, among which 47 are world premieres, 17 international premieres and 2 European premieres..
BERLINALE 2024 :: ‘My Favourite Cake’ Directors Deliver Powerful Message From Iran
‘My Favourite Cake’ Directors Deliver Powerful Message From Iran After Authorities Banned Travel to Berlinale: ‘Like Parents Forbidden From Looking at Their Newborn Child’..
Farshad Hashemi :: Director of 'Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others' :: Interview
“I can’t predict the future, but I know this is just the beginning”. The winner of Göteborg’s Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award plays with fact and fiction in his debut film..
BERLINALE 2024 :: EXCLUSIVE :: Trailer for Berlinale Panorama entry 'My Stolen Planet'
The German-Iranian co-production is a diary-style narrative by Farahnaz Sharifi, from her childhood to the 2022 Women, Life, Freedom uprising..
Farshad Hashemi's film wins The Ingmar Bergman Debut Award at Goteborg Film Festival
The Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award goes to Farshad Hashemi's feature debut 'Me, Maryam, The Children And 26 Others'. The prize consists of a stay at The Bergman Estate on..
‘Eternal’ :: Rotterdam Review :: A soulful exploration of love and regret
How can you commit to the future when life on earth seems so finite? It is a question that haunts the central character in writer/director Ulaa Salim’s admirably offbeat romance Eternal..
IFFR 2024 Tiger Competition :: 'Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others'
Farshad Hashemi's feature debut, Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others, which has just world-premiered in IFFR's Tiger Competition, will inevitably inspire associations with Iranian cinema's tradition of intertwining..
Berlinale Calls for Iran to Allow Directors to Attend Festival
The Berlin Film Festival has called on Iran to allow directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha to leave the country to attend the world premiere of their new film My Favorite Cake..
"My Favourite Cake" :: to premiere in the Berlinale Competition
Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha’s My Favourite Cake to premiere in the Berlinale Competition. Last year, the pair were banned from travelling in relation to their film..
Asghar Farhadi, Iranian filmmaker :: “I saw how powerful women are”
In a new interview with french newspaper Le Monde, Farhadi reveals he won't be making any new films in Iran, for the time being, as an act of resistance against the regime..
IPADOC 2024 :: Review :: Son of the Mullah
Nahid Persson pays tribute to Rouhollah Zam, an exiled Iranian activist and journalist with a tragic fate, with a moving film about the pursuit of regime opponents. “I had a beautiful life before I left Iran”..
‘Gunda’ :: Berlin Review :: Intensely moving and quite genuinely unique
Anyone who never thought they could imagine the feelings of an animal will have their mind changed here. Viktor Kossakovsky’s extraordinary film is every bit as resonant as Bresson’s ’Balthazar’ or Bela Tarr’s ’Turin Horse’..
BERLINALE 2024 :: “Sons” by Gustav Möller :: Selected for main Competition
BERLIN. “The Guilty” director Gustav Möller's prison drama “Sons” will be celebrating the World premiere in the International Competition strand of the Berlinale as the first Danish-language film in eight years..
BERLINALE 2024 Competition :: Encounters
The Berlinale (15-25 February) has announced the full line-ups of its Competition and Encounters sections. Twenty films will vie for the Golden and Silver Bears, including two debut features..
La chimera :: A fairy tale with a social conscience and plenty of humor
Alice Rohrwacher's film is clever, ambitious, and funny throughout, but it also works as an intelligent meditation on our attitudes toward life, love, and death. Get used to her name, because she will be sticking around well after..
Iran: PEN International Calls for investigation over Baktash Abtin’s tragic death
PEN International holds the Iranian authorities fully responsible for the death of the prominent writer, poet, and filmmaker Baktash Abtin and calls for an urgent investigation into..
GOLDEN GLOBES 2024 :: 'Anatomy of a Fall' wins two Golden Globes
Justine Triet’s film shone bright at the ceremony, at which the main winners were Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer and Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, which also boast European participation..
Tótem :: A dazzling, vibrant child’s-eye view of jubilation and tragedy
Lila Avilés’s latest film is filtered largely through the perspective of a seven-year-old girl who experiences the ups and downs of life in a day with her big and beautiful family.. A co-production between Mexico, Denmark and..
Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers Is a Holiday Triumph
Alexander Payne's new film The Holdovers, starring Paul Giamatti, is the kind of wonderful comedy-drama we used to take for granted. Today it feels like a cinematic miracle. In Payne’s work, one individual’s failings..
Film Orgs call on Iranian authorities to drop charges against two movie directors
Some 30 film organizations, festivals and professionals have signed an open letter calling on Iranian authorities to immediately drop all charges against directors Maryam Moghadam..
Absence :: Ali Mosaffa's mystical thriller
An Iranian man, while investigating into his father's youth in Prague, finds himself in the shoes of a third man who is almost dead and happens to be his half-brother. Absence is an attempt to shed light on a forgotten corner..
‘Cafe’ :: Review :: Screened at 64th Thessaloniki Int. Film Festival 2023
May seem absurdist, but it is at least partially autobiographical. Like his countryman Jafar Panahi, a ban on filmmaking didn’t stop Mihandoust and, in the three years he was waiting for the sentence to be enacted, he..
Stockholm International Film Festival Awards 2023
Best Film: “The Settlers” by Felipe Gálvez Haberle. In a remarkable triumph, Chilean maestro Felipe Gálvez’s brutal western clinched the coveted Best Film award. The film delves into the annals of Chilean colonization and..
36th TIFF :: Tokyo 2023 :: Winners
Family drama Snow Leopard, directed by the late Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden, has won the Tokyo Grand Prix, the top prize at this year’s Tokyo Film Festival. Tatami by Zar Amir Ebrahimi and Guy Nattiv won the Special Jury Prize, also the award for Best Actress for Zar Amir..
Tokyo Film Festival 2023
The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), set to run October 23 to November 1, revealed the lineup for its 36th edition, including 20 world premieres across its two competition strands. The festival features 15 titles in its main Competition section led by Japan and China..
GoCritic! Animest 2023 :: Review :: The Siren
As shown through the eyes of a teenage boy, Sepideh Farsi's animated film shows both the horrors and kindness that wartime brings. A striking, bleakly beautiful account of living in a war zone, which captures a traumatic and..
LONDON 2023 :: Review :: Celluloid Underground
Unsuitable films were burned after the Islamic regime took over Iran. But one man stashed away reels and reels of banned and western movies – to thrill a new generation in secret film clubs.. A salute to the underground film lovers..
Golshifteh Farahani On the Shocking News of One of Iran's most prominent film-makers' Murder
"I did my very first movie 'The Pear Tree' with him when I was 14 years old. He was One of the most incredible directors of Iran and a great friend throughout these 26 years"..
Noted Iranian film director and his wife found stabbed to death in their home
Fans of the celebrated Iranian film director Dariush Mehrjui have woken to the shocking news of his murder at home by an unknown assailant. He was 83. He was a co-founder of Iran’s film new wave in the early 1970s..
ORCA :: A Protest Against Hate, Intolerance and Dehumanization
Iranian swimmer (Taraneh Alidoosti) fights abuse and oppression with an “Orca” as her Spirit Animal. This drama ... is a genuinely inspiring story, in part because it doesn't adhere to the formula we might expect..
Copenhagen Cinematheque :: 'Leila's Brothers' :: Film of the Month in October
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OSCARS 2024 :: European titles submitted for the Oscars race
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Oscars 2024 :: Denmark Picks ‘The Promised Land’ for Best International Feature Category
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Oscars 2024 :: Sweden selects Milad Alami’s 'Opponent' as Oscar candidate
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Female Freedom Fighters :: The Politics of Women's Hair
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FAMILY DIARY: One of the world’s best movies about brothers
The Cinema Of Valerio Zurlini
Family Portrait | Cronaca familiare (1962)

by BAMPFA, JB & Dennis Grunes
February 3, 2007

An overwhelming drama, sadly neglected. Watching it in the Walter Reade in New York, I had the feeling that the screen was expanding to include the entire world.

One of the world’s best movies about brothers. Delicious, powerful evocation of feelings filtered by memory.

Family Diary (Family Portrait), the revelation of last winter's Marcello Mastroianni tribute, left many viewers wanting more from an important but relatively uncelebrated director, Valerio Zurlini.

Too late for neorealism, and perhaps too indigenous to share the international stage with Fellini and Antonioni, Zurlini is only occasionally referred to in the history books among the "young generation" of filmmakers that included Olmi and Bolognini.

New York critic Elliott Stein notes that Zurlini is rather "a lost generation unto himself." His premature death in 1982, after only eight features, preserved this status in stone. In Zurlini's films we view Italy through the perceptions of a sensitive, literate, and visually articulate artist.

A devastating story, magnificently photographed,  that has no "gaiety" as the "trailer" [back then, they were called previews] advertises.  It's wonderful to discover the films of Valerio Zurlini and to see the young, gifted Jacques Perrin.  Recently seen on Turner Classic Movies, this one calls for new subtitles.  The voice-over in English is an uncredited Orson Wells.  We need Criterion to pick this up and use technology to give this film its justly deserved place in the Zurlini cannon. --@TheGardeliano

Born in Bologna in 1926, he trained as a lawyer but was a passionate student of art, and then, like so many others, studied war as well. Both art and war would inform his films. Zurlini was a landscapist whose subject was character, minutely observed against the backdrops of Parma, Florence, and Rimini.

In his color films one can see the influence of his artistic mentors, the painters Giorgio Morandi and Ottone Rosai, while his black-and-white compositions are striking in their visual explication of evolving but doomed passions.

A Resistance fighter himself, Zurlini's powerful war films are uniquely if obliquely outspoken. Le Soldatesse, Black Jesus, and Desert of the Tartars focus on the terrible erosion of internal values that results when Europe fights its wars on the lands and the backs of others. In Violent Summer, set in Fascist Italy, the others are the Italian people themselves.

Italy makes the world’s best movies about brothers. Perhaps the finest one, and certainly the most famous, is Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers (1960), but another of the films I mentioned is the most widely distributed work by Bolognese filmmaker Valerio Zurlini, Cronaca familiare (Family Diary; literally, Family Chronicle), which shared at Venice the Golden Lion of St. Mark, the top prize, with Andrei Tarkovsky’s lyrical Soviet film about war’s blighting childhood, Ivan’s Childhood. (The jury cited the Zurlini film’s “delicious, powerful evocation of feelings filtered by memory.”) Against a broad though largely implicit canvas of national history, Zurlini’s film follows Enrico and Lorenzo Corsi (called Dino by his adoptive parents), whose fraternal relationship goes through a series of vast changes attuned to this history.

In subtle and flexible ways, the relationship comes to suggest aspects of this history, although Zurlini everywhere emphasizes the sensitive, universal emotions involved: in particular, the elder brother’s contemplation of the eternal mystery, for him, of his younger brother’s nature—a mystery ultimately sealed in the latter’s youthful death from an ailment itself so mysterious that it comes to seem a projection of Enrico’s limited capacity to fathom Lorenzo.

Cronaca familiare is a deeply affecting work. One reason that the film for better or worse “tells a story” is that the Florentine author who wrote the 1947 autobiographical novel on which the film is based, Vasco Pratolini, collaborated with Zurlini and Mario Missiroli on the screenplay. This doubtless contributes to the film’s literary air; but the fault—one characteristic of Zurlini’s work—almost seems irrelevant given the powerful humanistic experience that the film provides. We seem to be looking in on actual scenes from the, first, mutually estranged and, later, intertwined lives of the two brothers. What we look in on and overhear strikes us as a very personal account. The voiceover narration, ostensibly drawn from Enrico’s journal, even comes to seem etched memories of our own circling in our brain. The highly specific nature of the book yields, then, to the universal impulses behind Zurlini’s artistic intent.

Zurlini has fashioned a distressed, enormously painful tour of the human heart, and he did so, not so coincidentally, perhaps, at a nearly identical time in his life as when Pratolini wrote the book. Both men were in their early to mid-thirties, though of course more than twenty years apart. Both, like Dante in The Divine Comedy, were at the midpoint of their mortal lives.

The film opens in 1945, in a newsroom in Rome, where the impoverished Enrico, a struggling journalist, is informed that a piece of his will be published. Ordinarily, this would be an occasion worthy of celebration. For at least four reasons this time it is not. The atmosphere reeks of the defeat that the American occupation following Italy’s defeat in the Second World War encapsulates. To be sure, Enrico, like Zurlini a Marxist, had been anti-Fascist, but this political distinction is incapable of immunizing him from the national depression that defeat, not to mention the sheer exhaustion brought about by war, has wrought.


Enrico is visibly disdainful of the scattering of flat, arrogant American voices in his midst. They are an intrusion. Moreover, he is anxious besides because of the telephone call he awaits. It comes; it is from Florence. The party on the other end has been trying for a day to get through, but the American occupiers, indifferent to Italian lives, have been officiously hogging the phone lines. The news, though expected, is dreadful: Lorenzo, Enrico’s younger brother, in his twenties, died yesterday. Their separation thus is another cause of Enrico’s unhappiness.

The fourth is that the different circumstances of their lives, consigning Lorenzo to relative wealth but Enrico to squalor and poverty, has long since robbed Enrico of his health. Tubercular, why isn’t he the one to have died? It speaks to the depth of his sense of spiritual kinship that Enrico experiences the death of Lorenzo as yet another stroke of unfairness in his own life. His brother is the one with whom Enrico would have first shared the news of his publication. But, more than that, between the two of them it is Lorenzo who should have lived. Outdoors, slowly moving down a street, in long-shot, against a continuous backdrop of immense buildings on both sides, Enrico seems himself like the narrowly entombed walking dead.

When he returns to his meager accommodations, Enrico is like a ghost haunting the spare, dimly lit space, books stacked against the walls. Zurlini underscores this by slipping into use of a subjective camera. The emptiness of what Enrico sees (an empty chair, an unpopulated desk), which we see through the free-floating camera, reflects the vacant feeling of his soul. Enrico is separated forever from the treasure of his brother’s company and love. Thus he has finally caught up completely with Italy’s national mood of bereavement, exhaustion and defeat.

A painting on the wall triggers his recollections of the past. He and we are in an instant transported to Florence in 1918. A series of static shots of roads and countryside, with trees quietly awash in a subtle breeze, introduces the shift in space and time, Enrico’s withdrawal into memory. It is memory itself that these shots exquisitely portray, as do shots in Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog (1955), Hiroshima, mon amour (1959) and Last Year at Marienbad (1961).

Another war has just ended, and the two boys, Enrico, who is 8, and Lorenzo, who was born shy of a month earlier, are about to be separated, seemingly forever, for the first time. It is this past that will come to a kind of fruition, then, 27 years later. It is a past that contains the present as much as the present contains the past. So it is with human memory: past, present, each enrobing the other, with immediacy yielding instantaneously to distance, and distance yielding instantaneously to the immediacy of perpetual heartache.

Zurlinis masterful series of static shots, the bridge between present and past, comes measuredly alive when an elderly woman, holding the hand of a child, walks down a country road. The woman is the boys’ grandmother; the child is Enrico, whose care she has taken up owing to the death of the boys’ mother three days after Lorenzo’s birth. Grandmother and grandson are en route to visiting Lorenzo, who has been taken in by Salocchi, the butler of a wealthy English baron one of whose tenants had been nursing the infant. The boys’ father is not in the picture; he is a patient in an Army hospital. His wife, too, was a casualty of the war insofar that her death was partly the result of a non-native disease—Spanish influenza, compounded by meningitis. Enrico tells us, however, he did not hate Lorenzo for their mother’s death from complications of childbirth—the sort of statement that reveals a residue of the very feeling that is being denied. Enrico gives an odd reason for not having hated Lorenzo: because of their separation, Enrico came to feel that his brother had died along with their mother.

The grandmother reluctantly submits to Salocchi’s demand that she never mention Lorenzo’s mother to the boy Salocchi and his wife have “adopted.” This makes access to Lorenzo at least possible, although her visits, accompanied by Enrico, remain unwelcome. Eventually, when his brother is in his early teens, Enrico goes his separate way. Lorenzo remains cocooned in a bourgeois world; Enrico is battered by the poverty that results in his tuberculosis. (Enrico’s chain-smoking despite this condition comes to imply a romance with death that harkens back to the loss of his mother.) Lorenzo grows up hedonistic; Enrico, serious. Lorenzo is an indifferent student; Enrico, a writer, an intellectual, a perpetual researcher and student. Lorenzo is, thoughtlessly, a Fascist in Mussolini’s Italy; Enrico, a dedicated anti-Fascist. When their lives recross in 1935, they are a study in contrasts. Rather than eight years, a whole world separates them.


Life intervenes, and Enrico eventually leaves Lorenzo to go to Rome for a job as a journalist. The war also intervenes. Lorenzo marries, falls ill, and is already close to death when Enrico visits him for the last time, extending to him every possible care, moving him from one hospital to another. This is his brother. Their last scenes together are heartrending.

Why does Lorenzo die? Why not Enrico? Is it the weakness imposed on Lorenzo by the combination of his mother’s and biological father’s absence from his life? The absence of his brother at a critical time? The want of independence fostered by his bourgeois upbringing? Fascism’s usurpation of his individual will? All of these possibilities suggest themselves, and in concert they create a portrait of doomed European youth. Enrico perhaps survives in order to bear the burden of his inconsolable loss: Italy itself, after the war. The elegiac tone of Zurlini’s film encompasses both personal and national history.

Written in 1945 and published two years later, Pratolini’s book is a work of Italian neorealism. In 1962, the film may be something else: an exploration of the ghosts lurking behind Italy’s political and economic recovery.

Zurlini’s color cinematographer is the great Giuseppe Rotunno, whose work here was honored both at Venice and by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. In his staggering career, perhaps only his color work for Federico Fellini’s Fellini Satyricon (1969) surpasses his work for Cronaca familiare. Its palate of ochres and pale blue and green is drawn from the works, mostly still lifes, landscapes and urban scenes, of one of Zurlini’s favorite painters, Giorgio Morandi. Several scenes of profound darkness contribute to the film’s sense of mortal shadow and of Enrico’s—and Italy’s—long, dark night of the soul.

The acting in this film is immense. It is perhaps the case that Marcello Mastroianni has given more great performances than any other film actor ever; it also may be the case that Enrico is his crowning achievement. Sylvie’s portrait of the boys’ grandmother is bettered in her long career by nothing else. She and Mastroianni both are to the bone here. Jacques Perrin, as Lorenzo, is the younger brother none of us wants to let go of. (This actor-producer, who was in his twenties when he won an Oscar for co-producing Constantinos Costa-Gavras’s 1969 Z, is still very much at work.) Salvo Randone is everything he needs to be as Salocchi.

Cronaca familiare is at times a frankly sentimental film; Lorenzo’s protracted scenes of dying, with Enrico at his bedside, tear the heart to tatters, threatening to unbalance the film’s calm. Certainly Zurlini is incapable of the unsparing vision of family loss that distinguishes Nanni Moretti’s harsh (though beautiful) comedy The Son’s Room (2001). Perhaps nothing so much emphasizes the Zurlini film’s sentimental streak as the unnecessary music by Goffredo Petrassi that rather too conveniently swells up on a dime—a typical Italian bugaboo. No one can sanely declare Cronaca familiare a perfect piece of work. But I must at least protest that the actual film that I saw at the Northwest Film Center here in Portland, Oregon, is fifty times more wonderful than the doctored version that M-G-M released in the States in the mid-’60s and which Turner Classic Movies has broadcast at least once.

Afflicting this lesser incarnation is a third-person English narration that contradicts the actual film’s pivotal role of memory. It would appear that as late as a quarter-century after his demise the ghastly spirit of Irving Thalberg still dictated M-G-M’s practices. Throughout the industry, it is past time to put that spirit to rest.



A short chronology of world cinema
by Dennis Grunes | Jan 1, 2010

A Short Chronology of World Cinema
by Dennis Grunes | 15 Sep 2010

Night Train To Lisbon
Annette Focks


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