Padre Padrone

Starring: Omero Antonutti, Saverio Marconi, Marcella Michelangeli and Fabrizio Forte
Arrow Films
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 23 July 2007

Gavino is a poor Shepard boy who lives under the tyranny of his father. Forced to come out of school, at an early age, only national service allows him to escape his past and eventually gain an education...

Padre Padrone (1977), based on the autobiographical book by Gavino Ledda, was directed by the Taviani brothers. The film won five awards including a Golden Palm ant the 1977 Cannes film festival and was nominated for a BAFTA for Marconi's portrayal of Gavino. Originally made for television the film was so well received that it got a cinema release.

This is quite a dour film and won't be to everybody's taste. The first hour of the film has little in the was of dialogue as it charts Gavino's first years stuck on a mountain, pretty much, by himself. This means that the portion dealing with national service and his eventual transition into being a linguistics professor seems a little rushed. You don't get a sense of what the child had to overcome to achieve this.

It is sometimes difficult to know what the message of the film should be. There is an obvious dislike of the peasant way of like with its associated hardships and lack of intellectual stimulation, however Gavino's fathers' behaviour is portrayed as fairly reasonable, given the circumstances he finds himself in. Life as a peasant farmer is harsh and often leaves no room for the type of soft romanticism which the middle classes often indulge in when contemplating a life in the country. Even when he is freed from the constraints of his family Gavino doesn't seem to be any happier.

The unquestionable acting laurels should be shared between Omero Antonutti, who plays the father and Saverio Marconi who plays the young, oppressed and alienated Gavino.

The film is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. Sound is Italian with optional subtitles. The disc comes with a seventy-eight minute interview with the brothers discussing their approach to film as well as their influences. On the surface this sounds like a good thing unless you have previously bought Fiorile, in which case a sense of déja vu will set in as it's the same extra. The picture isn't great, soft and grainy, with noticeable artefacts, at one point you can even see a hair caught in the lower left hand corner of the picture.

In the end it is an interesting slice of brutal life, Ledda even appears in the film as himself at the beginning and end of the film. It is arguably not one of the Tavini brothers' best films, certainly not their most accessible, but should be of interest to collectors of either the Tavini brothers or Italian neo-realism.

Charles Packer

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