Sicilia!

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle HuilletItaly66 minutes1998PGB&WItalian

View Sicilia! during the From Today Until Tomorrow followed by Sicilia! event.

Voted one of the best films of the '90s in TIFF Cinematheque's international poll, Straub-Huillet's gorgeously shot adaptation of Elio Vittorini's 1939 novel Conversations in Sicily is pure, exhilarating cinema.

Voted one of the best films of the '90s in our Cinematheque's international poll, Sicilia! is pure, exhilarating cinema. Based on Elio Vittorini's 1939 novel Conversations in Sicily (which was banned by the Fascist government), Sicilia! is a four-part "road movie" that follows Silvestro, an immigrant who is returning home to the island after 15 years in America. In the film's centrepiece, where Silvestro confronts his mother (the formidable Angela Nugara) over her desertion of her husband, Nugara's response — a kind of obdurate aria about myth and machismo, cowardice and infidelity — supplies contemporary cinema with one of its most memorable sequences. For a film that fairly spumes with language, Sicilia! luxuriates most in William Lubtchansky's lustrous black-and-white images, from the arid Sicilian landscape and vistas of the sea to the starkly furnished home in which the implacable struggle between Silvestro and his mother transpires. By the time a Beethoven string quartet seals with soaring grace this hard, sad vision of exile, stasis and poverty, you will know that the cinema is still capable of transfiguration. "You have discovered, shown and made explode in my heart cinema, film, like for the first time," novelist and filmmaker Peter Handke wrote to Straub-Huillet. "Sicilia! is the sum of your oeuvre."