Rating: 4 out of 5
Earlier this year I reviewed a film called Everybody’s Fine, which was an Americanized remake of Giuseppe Tornatore’s Stanno Tutti Bene. I may have mentioned that I disliked Tornatore’s penchant for ‘overwrought in saccharine sentimentality’ and indeed may have an inherent bias against him as a filmmaker.
I adored Cinema Paradiso immensely but the rest of his oeuvre is filled with cinematic self-indulgence - but hey, that’s just my subjective opinion. The reason I came clean with this is because I’m about to gush about what a wonderful film Baarìa is, and you guys need to know that this comes from someone who’s not a fan.
I’d be last person to sing the praises of Giuseppe Tornatore but credit where credit is due, Baarìa is a phenomenal achievement – an epic about a city and family that captures your imagination in its ambrosial autobiography and never lets go.
The film is a deeply moving and nostalgic tribute to the director's Sicilian hometown of Bagheria (‘Baaria’ in the local dialect) as well as his storied lineage there. The story spans nearly 60 years as it begins in the 1920s and ends in the 1980s.
The ever-changing social and political fabric of Baarìa is mostly seen through the eyes of initially star-crossed yet eventually lifetime lovers Peppino (Francesco Scianna) and Mannina (Margareth Madè) for the majority of this stunning sundrenched film.
Three generations of Peppino’s family are depicted here, beginning with the story of his father Cicco and ending with his grandson Pietro. In between, Peppino’s life is filled with much strife and just as much joy, both little and monumental.
Peppino has a humble childhood during the Fascist period and subsequently WWII as a shepherd’s son and grows up to become entrenched in the Communist Party in young adulthood. His restless spirit makes Peppino a natural political activist, fighting relentlessly for workers rights and agrarian reform against the Mafiosi.
The massive 60-year span flows seamlessly due to Tornatore’s hypnotically rhythmic and ripple-less jump cuts. It is also evident that Tornatore has an abundance of compassion and endearment towards his subject matter and that love is gorgeously translated into his wistful storytelling and honeyed visuals.
The politics of Palermo may be the backdrop of the film but the real theme of Baarìa is the cyclical nature of life, love and loss, repeated throughout three generations. Baarìa paints such a vivid and poignant portrait of its universe that its moments of dramatic grandeur (sometimes backed by cheesy orchestral swells) never feels unauthentic.
Lest you think Baarìa entirely serious, the movie is uncannily funny as well. It’s not a stretch to say that this film is much funnier than all of the Hollywood comedies on offer this summer, combined. Genuine wit blended in with heartfelt storytelling – this is easily Tornatore’s best work since Cinema Paradiso.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, aka inSing.com's Movie Lover, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for Metrowize Asia.
Hidzir is the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.