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Celluloid Sicily

Several movies have described Sicily in its marked sociological and historical aspects or its striking landscapes, emphasizing the strong appeals it wields both on her inhabitants and visitors. The cinematographical production, mostly comedies, flourished around the 60’ has used irony and sarcasm to expose typical Sicilian cultural myths like male chauvinism, sense of honor and “shotgun weddings”. On the other hand, a more serious production has focused mainly on Mafia “phenomenon” with different styles and tones.

La Terra Trema La Terra Trema (1948) by Luchino Visconti
It is the masterpiece of Neorealist cinema. Inspired by I Malavoglia, La terra trema deals with the rebellion of a family of fishermen against the wholesalers who exploit them. It was shot in Aci Trezza and Aci Castello, and the protagonists were not professional actors and actresses, but people chosen among the locals and playing in Sicilian vernacular. It was awarded a special mention at Venice Film Festival in 1948.

Stromboli Terra di Dio Stromboli Terra di Dio (1949) by Roberto Rossellini
The movie tells the story of Karin (Ingrid Bergman), wife of a fisherman from Stromboli. She experiences the difficulties of integration in this wild and strange isle. On the background Stromboli, with its fascinating volcano, its magnificent wild landscapes and unpolluted nature. It is a psychological drama, memorable not only for its splendid setting, but also for the scenes describing the traditional fish hunt called mattanza.

Il Bell'AntonioIl Bell’Antonio (1960) by Mauro Bolognini
Antonio (Marcello Mastroianni), well-known Don Juan, returns to Catania after a long stay in Rome, and is forced to marry Barbara (Claudia Cardinale) by his family. The marriage will later be annulled because of his impotence. It is drawn from the homonymous novel by Vitaliano Brancati, and it’s a satire on the decline of the myth of Southern Italians’ virility.

Divorzio all'Italiana Divorzio all’Italiana (1961) and Sedotta e abbandonata (1963) by Pietro Germi
Two grotesque comedies on Italians’ vices. Divorzio all’italiana tells the story of baron Fefè Cefalù (Marcello Mastroianni), who decides to get rid of his wife in order to marry his lover, an adolescent cousin (Stefania Sandrelli). Since divorce is not yet allowed in Italy, he resorts to the so called “delitto d’onore” (a murder committed to vindicate a consort’s infidelity), tolerated by Italian criminal law until 1981. Sedotta e abbandonata is set in Sciacca in the 60’s, and focuses on the theme of the so-called “shotgun wedding” typical of Sicilian culture. Agnese (Stefania Sandrelli) is forced to marry her seducer, her sister’s former fiancé.

Salvatore GiulianoSalvatore Giuliano (1961) by Francesco Rosi
First of a series of movies concerning Mafia, it is focused on the multifaceted figure of bandit Giuliano. It is set in Montelepre, in the hinterland of Palermo, where Giuliano was actually born, in the nearby Montedoro mountains, which sheltered the bandit’s gang, and in Castelvetrano, where he spent his last days before being murdered.

The Leopard The Leopard (1963) by Luchino Visconti
The renowned movie by Luchino Visconti drawn from the homonymous novel describes the decadence of Sicilian aristocracy after Garibaldi’s Thousand feat and the unification of Italy. The worldwide famous waltz scene with don Fabrizio Salina (Burt Lancaster) and Angelica (Claudia Cardinale) was set in Palazzo Ganci in Palermo, on the notes of an unpublished waltz by Giuseppe Verdi revisited by Nino Rota.

La Ragazza con la Pistola La Ragazza con la Pistola (1968) by Mario Monicelli
Funny comedy dealing with the stereotype of Sicilian woman, whose role is played by a very young Monica Vitti. Seduced and forsaken, she goes to London to vindicate her injured honor. She will find love and emancipation. The first part of the movie is set in Taormina and in the surroundings of Catania.

The Godfather The Godfather (1972); Il Padrino – Parte III (1990) by Francis Ford Coppola
Part of the first episode of The Godfather’s famous saga was shot in Sicily: the story of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) returned to Italy is set in Forza D’Agro and Savoca. Moreover, a few scenes of Part III were shot on the outdoor staircase of our majestic Massimo Theatre in Palermo.

Kaos Kaos (1984) by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
This movie is divided into four episodes. It is inspired by a few short stories from Pirandello, and shot in Donnafugata, Salina, Lipari, Ispica, Ragusa Ibla and Giarratana. The best and most appreciated episode is the third, La Giara, set in Donnafugata, whose protagonists are the beloved Sicilian actors Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia.

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (1988) by Giuseppe Tornatore
Evocation of a post-war Sicily focusing on the the protagonist’s childhood, spent in a little town. The movie is set in the director’s birthplace, Bagheria, and in Santa Flavia, Lascari, Termini Imerese and Cefalù, in the sorroundings of Palermo.

Dear Diary Dear Diary (1993) by Nanni Moretti
The set of the second episode of this famous movie is the Aeolian archipelago, where Nanni Moretti goes with his friend Gerardo (Renato Carpentieri) in search of tranquillity, in order to write the scenario of a movie. They leave the chaotic Lipari to visit Salina, whose inhabitants seem to be mostly strange funny family circles consisting of fearful parents and worshipped despotic only children. They move to Stromboli, but cannot find anyone to host them. After flying away by the fashionable Panarea, they eventually land in the remote Alicudi. The movie is an ironical reflection on the commonplace of wild beauty.

Il Postino Il Postino (1994) by Michael Radford
Drawn from the novel by Antonio Skàrmeta, it is Massimo Troisi’s last movie. He plays the role of Mario, the postman delivering mail to the exiled poet Pablo Neruda (Phillippe Noiret). The movie focuses on the acquaintance between the poet and the postman, completely upsetting the latter’s life. The set is Salina, and the movie was shot in the splendid village of Pollara, perched on a volcanic rock steeply descending to the sea.

Malena Malena (2000) by Giuseppe Tornatore
Two great experiences mark 12 years-old Renato’s life on the day of Italy’s entry in World War II in 1940: he gets his first bike and sees Malèna for the first time. She is a beautiful, silent woman moved to Sicily with her husband Nico, who soon goes off to war abandoning her to the lustful eyes of men and the sharp tongues of women. During the next few years, while going towards manhood, Renato will witness Malèna’s sufferings, her loneliness and grief when Nico is reported dead, the effects of slander on her relationship with her father, her poverty and search for work, her final humiliations. Will Malèna teach him to be courageous? Will he stand up for her?

I Cento PassiI Cento Passi (2000) by Marco Tullio Giordana
One hundred steps is the the actual distance between Peppino Impastato’s home (Luigi Lo Cascio) and Mafia boss Tano Badalamenti’s house in the little town of Cinisi. The protagonist denounces Mafia’s power on the local newspaper and from a little radio station, but he will pay this offence with his life. It is a true story, and the movie focuses on the moral fibre, courage and emotions of this little town Sicilian hero.

Respiro Respiro (2002) by Emanuele Crialese
It’s a touching movie suspended between fiction and reality and set in the splendid Lampedusa. The main character is Grazia (Valeria Golino), alleged mad because of her strange behavior. With her son’s help, she succeeds in avoiding seclusion in a mental hospital in Milan. People think she’s dead, and begin to worship her as a saint. The plot is drawn from a local legend.

Nuovo Mondo: Golden Door Nuovo Mondo: Golden Door (2006) by Emanuele Crialese
A family from Petralia mountains decides to sell all their belongings and leave Sicily to start a journey to the Promised Land, America. Once arrived, they realize America is different from what they had always imagined. Humiliated by the innumerable medical examinations and psychological tests destined to foreign immigrants, they become convinced that this land, never belonged to them, will never become their home.

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