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Padre Padrone
cast: Omero Antonutti, Saverio Marioni, Marcella Michangeli, and Fabrizio Forte

directors: Paolo and Vittorio Taviani

109 minutes (15) 1977
Arrow DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Padre Padrone (which translates as 'father master') is based on the autobiography of Gavino Ledda. Born the son of a shepherd (Omero Antonuitti), Gavino (Fabrizio Forte as a child, Saverio Marioni as an adolescent) is taken out of school and forced to follow the family trade in a remote, isolated part of Sardinia. Any interest in the outside world is brutally beaten out of him by his father. However, he begins to educate himself by force of will more than anything else. Nowadays, Ledda is a poet and a linguist, a recognised authority on Sardinian dialect.

The Taviani brothers' second feature (after Allonsanfan, made in 1974) was the one that made their reputation. The Italian television company RAI was notably forward thinking in putting money into theatrical features in the 1960s and since. Padre Padrone, shot on a tiny budget in 16mm, went on to win the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Padre Padrone is not a pretty picture: the Tavianis don't flinch in depicting the hardships Gavino endured. It's a frank, earthy film, including a scene of bestiality (probably a first for a TV production) depicted as probably a fact of life in a backward rural community such as this one. Unusually for television, the Tavianis shoot much of the film in masters and medium shots, reserving close-ups for when they really count. And there's not an ounce of sentimentality to be found. But this isn't just a work of unadorned realism - the Tavianis employ some adventurous touches such as entering the heads of the schoolchildren in the opening scene, and even those of a goat Gavino is trying to milk.

Needless to say this isn't for children, the squeamish or the easily offended. It's on the slow-moving side. But it is a journey well worth making: by not shrinking from the adversity, they make us feel Gavino's triumph.

Arrow's all-regions DVD is a two-disc edition. The film is 1.66:1 and non-anamorphic, the transfer soft, grainy and dark. Much of that is due to the lo-fi shooting methods. The soundtrack is the original mono. Disc two contains the only extra, an 84-minute interview with the Tavianis. This will certainly be familiar to anyone who buys Arrow's simultaneous release of their 1993 film Fiorile, and I have described this extra in more detail in that review.
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