Combustible Celluloid
With: Gianni Buscarino, Vittorio Vigneri, Angela Nugara, Carmelo Maddio, Angela Durantini, Simone Nucatola, Ignazio Trombello, Giovanni Interlandi, Giuseppe Bonta, Mario Baschieri
Written by: Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub, based on a novel by Elio Vittorini
Directed by: Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Italian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 66
Date: 09/15/1999

Sicily! (1999)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Italian Pressing

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I caught this film by veterans Jean-Marie Straub & Daniele Huillet late at night at the 2000 San Francisco Film Festival, and though I was sleepy and it was dense and austere, I think Sicilia! is something special. It's a brief 66 minutes, but packed with talk and meaning. A man travels to Sicily to see his mother and gets into four conversations with: an orange vendor, people on his train, his mother, and with a knife sharpener. Sometimes it seems as if the acting is not so great, but that may simply be the style of talking or the filmmakers' directions or a problem of translation. It was difficult to tell. But most of the time, the conversations are riveting, especially when the man's mother confesses to an infidelity years ago. The knife sharpener makes a good life-affirming ending to the film. I asked myself when the last time was that I had such revealing conversations on a train, with a stranger in the street, or even with my mother. Sicilia! is beautifully photographed in black and white by William Lubtchansky. It will probably never be released on video or ever show again, but I will remember it for a long time. (In 2020, the movie, happily, received a digital restoration and virtual release by Grasshopper Film.)

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