58th London Film Festival starts here

Leopardi [Il giovane favoloso] Italy LOVE SECTION
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Giacomo Leopardi is one of the most important and influential poets in Italian literary history…so runs the opening sentence of the BFI guide to this bewitching and beguiling film. Leopardi was reviled by many of his nineteenth century contemporaries for being melancholic, sarcastic and lacking in grace; much of which to his utter fury they put down to his frail and crooked physic.

Born in Recanati, in the Marche (at that time a Papal State) Giacomo was the eldest of three children, his siblings – a brother Carlo and a sister Paolina – led a happy childhood, but on reaching adolescence they became tyrannised and thwarted by their father’s religious fanaticism, antiquated ideas and conservative politics. Determined in any case that, on account of his frailty, Giacomo would enter the priesthood they all three came under the severe and narrow tutelage current at the time.

At some point through other influences, mostly in the form of other writers, Giacomo began to learn and reach out to the ideas of the Enlightenment. In 1817, Pietro Giordani came to Recanati and so began a lifelong friendship, possibly the most important and influential that he was ever to make. Eventually, after several futile attempts to escape from the family home, Leopardi did indeed begin to travel in Italy.

Restless and unhappy, frail and often exceedingly unwell, this social misfit was cared for by his friend Antonio Ranieri. Frequently, and humiliatingly, short of funds they travelled from Rome to Florence and eventually Naples, where Giacomo died in 1837. Deeply affected by the hypocrisy of the Church and the veniality of politics, Giacomo turned to the natural beauties of the earth and the heavens for his inspiration, his poetry is romantic, but his essays show an understanding that belies the romantic plangency of his poems and show a mind deeply attuned to the ideas of the Enlightenment and demonstrate a powerful and moving search for self expression and identity.

The scope and execution of this inspirational biopic, the locations and the skilful use of natural Italian light make it a joy to watch. The Director Mario Martone and the leading actors – Elio Germano, Michele Riondino and Massimo Popolizio – deliver an astonishingly moving and memorable film.

Shown as a prelude to all the Italian films in this year’s festival is a celebration of 90 years of the Italian Instituto Luce archive. Into the War [L’entrata in guerra] by Roland Sejko is part of a series. This ten minute short uses film footage of the day that Il Duce declared war and is based on a story by Italo Calvino.

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Filed under Modern History, Select Cinema, Travel, Uncategorized

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