Combustible Celluloid
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With: Amilcare Pettinelli, Antonio Pietrangeli, etc.
Written by: Luchino Visconti, Antonio Pietrangeli
Directed by: Luchino Visconti
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Italian with English subtitles
Running Time: 160
Date: 08/18/1948

La Terra Trema (1948)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Fish Stories

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Luchino Visconti (1906-76) is often lumped in with Italian Neo-Realist filmmakers like Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica, but in truth, his work stands apart, landing somewhere in-between realism and operatic indulgence. He was born independently wealthy and developed a passion for various art forms, including opera and theater. But he learned to love cinema after working as an assistant for Jean Renoir, and even developed a liberal worldview and an interest in the common people. Visconti's first film, Ossessione (1943), was made two years before the Neo-Realist movement really started. Based unofficially on James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, it was not released in America until years later because of copyright infringement, and even then it was heavily censored.

Visconti earned far greater acclaim for La Terra Trema (1948), a lengthy portrait of a Sicilian fishing village, starring real-life fishermen -- and not one trained actor. The young fishermen grow weary of working so hard for so little and attempt to start their own business, which promptly fails and eventually tears the family apart. Visconti's touching affection for the characters comes through clearly, and though it can get a bit slow (Pauline Kael called it the most boring great film ever made), it's a remarkable social document.

Image Entertainment's DVD does not boast very high quality image or sound, but the film come highly recommended anyway.

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