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Bishops Castle Film Society

Padre Padrone - 22nd January 2020

Padre Padrone, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani,
Italy, 1977, 114 mins

When the 17 and 15-year-old Taviani brothers saw Rossellini’s film Paisan in 1946, a film which showed Italy ruined after WWII, they swore that if they were not shooting films within ten years they’d shoot themselves.  Thirty years later they produced Padre Padrone (My Father, My Master), the first film to win both Palme d’Or and the international critics’ prize at Cannes.

 

Originally made for television, Padre Padrone is based on the autobiography of the linguist Gavino Ledda, who we see right at the beginning of the film whittling a big stick which he hands to the actor who plays his father.
Ryan Gilbey writes: ‘The brothers have said that ‘the audience must always know it is watching a film’, and Padre Padrone never lets us forget.  We eavesdrop on people’s thoughts, such as the other children in Ledda’s class (‘Please God, make my father die.  All it takes is a kick from a donkey’).  The noise rises to a violent clamour, but we can see that the pupils are all sitting quietly, lips sealed.  Milking a recalcitrant goat, Ledda bickers telepathically with the creature.  ‘I will shit in your milk and then your father will hit you,’ says the goat.  ‘I am going to keep your arse shut,’ the kid snaps back.  That exchange is typical of the film’s earthiness.   …
Padre Padrone is about the mental poverty that arises from a paucity of language, and the relationship it has to physical poverty.  Music, from traditional folk songs to Mozart and Strauss, provides oxygen in Ledda’s airless young life.  But words emancipate him.  The real Ledda appears again at the end, to claim back his story from the film.’
(The Guardian, 28 Apr 2015)

The year the film came out, Janet Maslin wrote in the New York Times: ‘Padre Padrone is stirringly affirmative.  It’s also a bit simple: The patriarchal behavior of Ledda’s father is so readily accepted as an unfathomable given constant that the film never offers much insight into the man or the culture that fostered him.  Intriguingly aberrant behavior is chalked up to tradition, and thus robbed of some of its ferocity.  But the film is vivid and very moving, coarse but seldom blunt, and filled with raw landscapes that underscore the naturalness and inevitability of the father-son rituals it depicts.’
(NYT, 24 Dec 1977)

 


 

 

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