150 minutes| Italy-France| 2009| Subtitled| Colour| D-Cinema

Giuseppe Tornatore’s most ambitious film since Cinema Paradiso is an epic fresco that sweeps through fifty years and takes the director’s own picturesque Sicilian hometown of Bagheria (or ‘Baarìa’ in the local dialect) from near-feudal backwater to vibrant modern community. While the scale prompts comparisons with Coppola’s Godfather saga, this is not primarily a mafia story, instead tracing how one decent man, a humble peasant who gets involved in local politics, can actually make a difference – even if it’s hard to see this corruption-mired corner of Italy changing very much when you’re in the thick of it. Appropriately, Tornatore’s approach layers on comic misadventure, Mediterranean romance and much swooning Ennio Morricone music as its intelligent overview on national transformation resolves itself gradually over an expansive running time. Most remarkable, perhaps, is the fact this vast fresco was achieved on huge sets in Morocco, peopled by a cast of thousands – a lavish vision brought to fruition by old-school craft. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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