Marcello’s Martin Eden is getting Cinema Scope cover-story attention, so I’m catching up with his previous feature. “Dreams and fables, although imaginary, should tell the truth.” There’s something here, history and metaphor, with documentary footage of protests edited in – it was sometimes beautiful, but the meaning was lost on me.
Tommaso is a volunteer caretaker at an abandoned palace. He dies unexpectedly, so party-masked afterlife character Pulcinella takes on Tommaso’s rescued baby buffalo and searches for its home, the movie narrated at times by the buffalo and using a cow’s-eye lens.
Tommaso did die, at Christmas a year and a half before this movie came out. Marcello had filmed him for an episode of a doc journeying through parts of Italy, and after Tommaso passed, he transformed the film by summoning Pulcinella to continue the journey.
Blake Williams in Cinema Scope:
Both of them, the immortal and the livestock, traverse the bucolic Roman region on a odyssey comprising assorted side narratives, dispirited souls, and scraps of historical detritus they encounter along the way, absorbing them into the film’s whimsical and sombre exquisite corpus … [the buffalo] meanwhile, rambles about his quest to live on a distant star, recounts dreams of humans sprouting wings and flying out to celestial lands of immortality, and preaches about how “being a buffalo is an art,” living as he must in a world that denies animals have souls. To Marcello’s credit, he’s able to keep the barminess of these proceedings in check, balancing the film’s didactic “points” and fantastic flourishes into its network of ideas without lessening the sincerity of its depressive tone.