Sobering portrait of 1940s Sicily
Stephen Taylor | Chapel Hill, North Carolina | 11/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It didn't surprise me that few Americans appreciated this film. Unless you know something about Sicily or have traveled there, you might not appreciate the full scope of this film, which is understandable -- but still, it is a fantastic and highly original movie that stands easily on its own merits.Set in the late 1940s or early 1950s, the story revolves around Morelli, a conman from Rome who steals a truck, camera, and discarded film from the movie company he works for and drives down to Sicily. Posing as "Dr. Morelli", the conman (played by Sergio Castellitto) convinces whole towns of ordinary Sicilians that he is really a talent agent scouting out new genius in the poverty-stricken island of he south. He could have stepped out of the dream world of the circus. Charging 1,500 lire for a chance to pose before his camera and take a stab at making it as an actor, Morelli offers these Sicilians a chance of fame and fortune in the glitzy world of Rome and America that also means an opportunity to escape the impoverishment of their homeland.In incredible scene after incredible scene (made even better by a phenomenally good screenplay), Morelli gets these Sicilians to open up. Although they aren't actually being filmed (they don't realize that the film Morelli is using is junk), they think this may be their chance to break into acting, so they spill out their inner worries and life stories as though they were talking in front of a psychiatrist. What results is not only a panoramic and extremely original portrayal of the Sicilian people (including the mafia, bandits, an old Spanish Republican, a 112-year-old Garibaldino, a harassed homosexual, and a beautiful but naive teenage girl whom Morelli falls in love with). It is also a blisteringly sharp attack on the causes of backwardness in Sicily (which still exists today), as well as the sneering attitude of many northern Italians toward the South. While he initially took them to be just "idiotic rednecks" ripe to be ripped off, Morelli slowly discovers the Sicilians' humanity without this film being in any way a quaint or "cutesy" portrayal of how a man discovered the natives in "quaint, sun-baked Italian villages"."The Star Maker" is full of humor as well as tragedy. As the great Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia wrote, humor is a staple of life in Sicily as in few other places -- it has to be in order for survival to go on. Moreover, unlike the stereotypical Hollywood portrayals of Sicily in "The Godfather" movies, "The Star Maker" has a very profound social message. As the girl, Beata, says at the end of the film, "I like movies with a happy ending, where lovers kiss in each other's arms". Unfortunately, in Sicily, a happy ending just would not tell the entire story.I was flabbergasted and sobered by this film. I was even more flabbergasted by its lame critical reception in the United States and by reviewers at Amazon.com. If moviegoers in this country go on thinking that "Legally Blonde" is the supreme height of cinematic achievement, I really think we're going to go totally brain-dead. Five stars."
inframan | the lower depths | 03/17/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie, by the director of Cinema Paradiso, "disappointed" a lot of American movie reviewers because it lacks the sentimentality and pat structure of CP. But it's far more epic, poetic & imaginative (& much less PC) and absolutely gorgeous to watch. Ignore Maltin & the puritans at the NY Times & SF Chronicle. Watch this movie. You won't be sorry."
A "talent scout" takes advantage of dreamers in Italy.
email@example.com | US | 12/28/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Set sometime in the early post-WWII era, a con-man travels the Italian countryside with a movie camera and prop truck, masqerading as a talent scout from Universal Studios in Rome. He promises people in local villages the opportunity to be discovered by "Italy's greatest directors and producers, and even those from America". A short screen test is all it takes, requiring an investment only of their "obvious" talents, their time and a "small bit" of money. The simple people are easily seduced by his promises of fame and fortune, and for the man's camera (it has no film!), they open their hearts, their dreams, their memories and, unfortunately, their wallets. The man is not all bad, however, and he meets several people who profoundly affect his opinion of himself. Finally, a beautiful young woman forces him to reconsider his life. The story is at once hilarious, sentimental, touching, sad, and thought-provoking. Shot entirely in quaint Italian villages and the beautiful Italian countryside, the scenery is spectacular. I whole-heartedly recommend this film, even to those who don't speak Italian. I don't speak Italian, and I hope you won't let the need to read subtitles cause you to miss this wonderful film."
Did we even see the whole movie?
Jason Maas | 03/22/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I LOVE tornatore, I liked this film. i think anyone who loves seeing italy and italian culture should add a star too. that being said, i wonder, how much of this film did we see? the box does, as a reviewer pointed out, feature a ruby-lipped woman that just does not sell this movie for what it is. but what gets me, is there are three pictures on the back, and two of them arent in the film!
i know that every copy other than the italian original and the korean version of "Malena" (highly reccommended for tornatore fans) were shortened by 11 minutes by miramax.. perhaps there was too much sex in the film for american censure; perhaps now there's not emough character development in the movie to completely fall in love with it. the other reviewers hit the nail on the head about the sobering effect of witnessing people expose their lives for the chance at fame, but either way, before the cutting room floor or after, there's something missing from the main character of this film. if any of you know where it is please tell me."