Baaria

 

Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. Starring Francesco Scianna, Margareth Madè, Monica Bellucci, Raoul Bova, Ángela Molina 15A cert, IFI, Dublin, 150 min

YOU KNOW where you stand with the latest Italian epic from Giuseppe Tornatore. The opening scene finds a young boy being asked to run an errand for an old man in the town square. As he speeds through the streets, he unexpectedly leaves the earth

and – to the accompaniment of Ennio Morricone’s most overstuffed chords – drifts above the idyllically sun-drenched streets of his remote village.

Like much in Tornatore’s popular Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, the scene does have a superficial charm to it. Unfortunately, like a child choosing to live entirely off sweets and foreswear all vegetables, Tornatore returns to the trick over and over again. Emotional moment. Morricone gush. Reset and repeat.

Baariais, in short, all peak and no plateau. When set beside the new film, Cinema Paradisobegins to look a little like a slice of miserable gritty realism.

Recalling Federico Fellini’s Amarcord in its structure, but forswearing that film’s busy variety for homogeneous sludge, Baariasets out to tell the story of a Sicilian town very like the one in which the director came of age. The hero of the piece is a humble shepherd, born in the pre-war years, who grows up to become a prominent communist. Along the way, he encounters corruption, has mild fallings-out with his children and tries to avoid suffocating beneath the persistent waves of cheap symbolism.

There’s some jiggery pokery about a formation of three rocks that, if struck by the same stone, will reward the thrower with riches. There’s a conceit involving flies imprisoned within spinning tops. There’s a particularly obscure recurring motif involving broken eggs (are they just eggs or is it something to do with fertility?). Rather than adding depth to the piece, these half-baked tropes merely call attention to the sparseness of the core story.

And yet. It’s hard to entirely resist the tacky attractions of Tornatore’s vulgar aesthetic. The scenery is lovely. The music goes straight to your sugar receptors. The actors have an undeniable charm. As two-and-a- half-hour ice-cream commercials go, Baariacould be worse.