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Fiorile - drama DVD / suspense DVD review
FIORILE Unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 stars
Actors: Claudio Bigagli, Galatea Ranzi, Michael Vartan, Lino Capolicchio
Directors: Paolo and Vittorio Taviani   Studio: Koch Lorber Films
DVD release: 01 April 2008   Runtime: 105 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio tracks (Italian), Subtitles (English), "The Boys From San Miniato" Featurette, Trailer

My tastes run more toward sci-fi horror and action; thus, a leisurely paced romantic costume drama such as Fiorile already has a strike against it for a reviewer like me. Still, there is much admire about the film, although it came across as a bit too slow for me. I expected more flash and over-the-top moments, particularly from an Italian film.

The story: The Benedetti family from Paris drives through Tuscany, the purpose of the trip that the father wants his children to meet their reclusive grandfather. During a stay at a local hotel, the children overhear two maids talking about the children's family - namely how they are derisively referred to as "Maledetti" (cursed) - because of their history of bad luck and doomed romances. As they travel through the countryside, the father tells his children of their family history. As the father tells the stories, the film seamlessly blends past and present to offer three tragic tales.

The first tale (and the most effective and moving in the film) gives the origin of the curse. A young officer in Napoleon's army is entrusted with a mule carrying a case full of gold. Fate finds the soldier in the arms of a young Benedetti woman (then a peasant family), but without her knowledge her brother steals the mule (he does not yet know about the gold). The tragic fate of the young couple sets the curse in motion, and it is two-fold: the sins of the fathers and the family's ill-gotten wealth cause dire unforeseen circumstances for future generations.

The second tale (less effective than the first) takes place in the early 20th century, when another Benedetti woman (played by the same actress) falls in love with another young man. Again, the actions of her brother, who has strong political aspirations, lead to tragedy and death - though with somewhat of a twist from the previous tale.

The third tale takes place during World War Two but follows a male Benedetti, the son of the heroine of the second tale. A resistance fighter against Mussolini, he is caught but spared execution because of his family name. However, he is wracked with guilt over being spared. Someone else pays the ultimate price; no one emerges from the tales unscathed.

The final story is set in modern times. The children arrive at the farmhouse and meet their grandfather. The resistance fighter is now a reclusive old man. Their arrival is not welcome, for it forces the old man to face to truths he would rather not confront.

Of these tales, the first is clearly the most effective, followed by the third. The second is a bit too melodramatic and leaves some questions unanswered. The last one did not work for me. Parts of a dinner scene and, in particular, the film's dénouement are not as powerful as intended; one aspect of the climax was indeed silly, I'm afraid.

The film is quite clever in how it ties the past with the present (many actors have multiple roles; the film will sometimes cut from the family van to a scene set in the past) and the Tuscan landscape is quite beautiful. Still, not being a fan of these movies, I found the film a bit tepid and slow. Maybe it is just me, for there is much to like about this film, and romantic film lovers should enjoy it.

Extras include
  • Original trailer
  • Hour-long feature on directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
  • Eight-page booklet and essay on Fiorile
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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