Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Tribeca ’15: Wondrous Boccaccio
you are waiting to possibly die, telling stories is a fine way to pass the time—especially
if you have sworn off hanky-panky. Such is the position ten high-born friends
find themselves in when they seek refuge in the countryside from the Black
Death ravaging Renaissance Florence. They will learn how to cook for themselves
and will take turns telling stories in Paolo & Vittorio Taviani’s Wondrous Boccaccio (trailer here), which screens
during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.
plague has reduced Florence to anarchy, so a group of friends retreats to a
country villa. There they will either wait out the horrors racking the city or
die in relative comfort. Like the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (generally thought to be inspired by Boccaccio’s Decameron), they will tell stories to
entertain each other. The Taviani Brothers chose five out of the one hundred
assorted tales and anecdotes, three of which live up to their implied greatest
hits status and two that seem rather slight.
telling of tales begins with perhaps the best, the almost Shakespearean saga of
Catalina, a young wife who apparently dies of the plague and is callously cast
away by her mother-in-law, only to be reclaimed first in death and then in life
by her secret admirer. It is followed by the Medieval O. Henry tale of a lonely
falconer who serves up his beloved bird to Giovanna the woman who spurned him,
yet now has her own reasons for needing his now broiled companion. The Brothers
Taviani also evoke the spirit of Pasolini with a wild and bawdy tale of
cloistered sex and intrigue, mercifully sparing us the auteur’s excesses.
other Decameron adaptations and anthology
films in general, the Tavianis are most interested in the framing narrative
rather than the constituent tales. The opening scenes in Florence are
strikingly stark and stylish, again inviting comparison to Pasolini and Terry
times the cast is a bit difficult to distinguish from one another, like good
Italian proletariats, but Josafat Vagni and Jasmine Trinca definitely stand out
in the Falconer’s Tale. However, cinematographer Simone Zampagni, costumer Lina
Nerli Taviani, and production designer Emita Frigato’s team are the real stars
of the film. Wondrous just looks like
a work of art worth framing.
is actually often quite ribald, but it is such a
classy package it always feels like proper prestige cinema (except maybe during
the convent tale). Recommended for those who enjoy mature literary adaptations,
Wondrous Boccaccio screens again
tonight (4/22) and Sunday (4/26), as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Labels: Italian Cinema, Tribeca '15