The Night of the Shooting Stars
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