The Night of the Shoot­ing Stars

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THE NIGHT OF THE SHOOT­ING STARS, drama, rated R, in Ital­ian with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3 chiles

The an­nual ap­pear­ance of the Per­seid me­teor shower roughly co­in­cides with the Tus­can feast day honor­ing the mar­tyred Catholic saint San Lorenzo in Au­gust. This night of shoot­ing stars is one when dreams come true, or so Ce­cilia tells her sleepy young son one sum­mer evening while watch­ing the me­teor shower. Ce­cilia re­cites a story about a night many years be­fore, when at the age of six, she, along with the res­i­dents of the small Tus­can vil­lage where she lived, took a stand against the Nazi sol­diers oc­cu­py­ing the town. Most of the nar­ra­tive of this al­ter­nately en­chant­ing and dis­turb­ing story is set late in the war. It is 1944 and the Ger­mans are re­treat­ing from ad­vanc­ing U.S. forces. The Ger­mans have plans to blow up the town, but first­they round up the res­i­dents in­side a lo­cal church. The lovelorn Gal­vano (Omero An­tonutti) and Con­cetta (Mar­garita Lozano), the ob­ject of his af­fec­tions, lead sev­eral other vil­lagers, un­der cover of night, on a dan­ger­ous quest to seek out the Amer­i­can lib­er­a­tors ru­mored to be nearby.

Broth­ers Paolo and Vit­to­rio Ta­viani (Padre Padrone) in­fuse their mas­ter­work with lush, sun-dap­pled views of the Tus­can coun­try­side, a set­ting that con­trasts with the vi­o­lence of war. A re­stored ver­sion of the the 1982 film, over­seen by the Ta­via­nis, plays at The Screen.

The peas­antry and folk­ways of Italy have been a sub­ject mined by the Ta­via­nis through­out their ca­reers. The Night of the Shoot­ing Stars isa re­vist­ing of themes de­vel­oped in their short film San Mini­ato, luglio ’44 (1954), which tells a tale based on a his­toric and tragic event in which vil­lagers of San Mini­ato were mas­sa­cred by Ger­man forces. The Night of

the Shoot­ing Stars puts some dig­nity and hu­man­ity back into the hands of the vil­lagers in this fic­tional retelling of that story. Their at­tempts to thwart the Nazis some­times take on comic pro­por­tions, such as when they broad­cast pa­tri­otic Amer­i­can songs to trick the Ger­mans into be­liev­ing the U.S. forces have ar­rived. But they are pawns in a larger game be­tween two mil­i­tary pow­ers. The story, told from the point of view of its six-yearold pro­tag­o­nist (Mi­col Guidelli), at times un­der­mines the gravitas of the vil­lagers’ predica­ment be­cause, in young Ce­cilia’s eyes, it’s all one big ad­ven­ture, not un­like a game. The film’s youth­ful spirit, which an­i­mates the lighter mo­ments, is also at vari­ance with the bloody en­coun­ters and bru­tal death the town folk en­counter in the ver­dant Tus­can fields. In­deli­ble im­ages in­fuse the Ta­viani’s poetic film, not the least of which is the sight of a group of weary su­vivors pass­ing the night in­side the hol­low of a shell crater.

The Night of the Shoot­ing Stars is a great-look­ing film, but it delves too much into fairy tale — as a story told to chil­dren on a sum­mer’s night — to de­liver the proper emo­tional im­pact of the events it de­picts.

— Michael Abatemarco

Vil­lage voices: Mas­simo Bonetti and Clau­dio Bi­gagli

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