The third Tavianis film to be released this month by Koch Lorber Films is Fiorile (1993), a tale about love and revenge set amidst the green hills of Tuscany. Arriving to US shores for the first time ever pic reconfirms the Tavianis reputation as one of Italy's most gifted directors.
A young family drives through the Italian countryside. The father tells his children a story about a tragedy that has been haunting their family for years. The Benedettis, who once greeted the Napoleon army, are apparently responsible for the death of a French soldier who lost a precious cargo while helping a beautiful girl. 200 years later the Benedettis are still looking for peace.
Told as a collage of flashbacks Fiorile tackles familiar themes - true love, forgiveness, the subversive power of money, etc - closely intertwined in what some regard as one of the Tavianis most ambitious works. Here, colorful characters are once again the focus of attention with elegant plot twists playing a prominent role.
The manner in which the story is told also does not surprise. Relying on cinematographer Giuseppe Lanci's eye for detail Fiorile feels very much like a classic fairytale where good and evil will collide and spur a sea of tragic events leading to a happy-ending. Only instead of sugary sentimentality and overused clichés the Tavianis have added a great deal of contemporary flavor instantly transforming Fiorile into a unique experience, one where both children and adults will find plenty to admire.
The love affair that would spur a chain reaction of tragic events is introduced fairly early. In fact, it is easy to predict where the Tavianis are heading with their story. What isn't easy to tell immediately is how everything would be aligned. Will the story culminate in the past or, will it reach a resolution in the present? How will the drama carry itself through the years? Fittingly, until the very end the Tavianis remain mum.
Yet, what Fiorile impresses the most with is the consistency in detail - which is quite a remarkable feature as the Tavianis typically spare a great deal of time capturing the traditions and customs of those who are the focus of attention in their films. Here, the Italian directors elegantly pass through notable political events (from Napoleon's exit of Italy to the French Revolution) granting the viewer the opportunity not only to continue to follow the Benedettis and their struggles but to capture the spirit of the time where the story has moved as well. As expected all of that is achieved with the marquee for the Tavianis excellent blending of folklore with history.
Winner of the David di Donatello Award for Best Production Design and Nominated for Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993.
How Does the DVD Look?
Koch Lorber Films release Fiorile in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 enhanced for widescreen TVs slightly modified from the film's OAR of 1.77:1 (once again, I am certain that the R1 release is a direct port of the MK2 print). This being said this film has the best looking transfer of the three Tavianis discs released this month. Lush and fresh looking colors, excellent contrast, and a clean print is what we have here. The progressive transfer is quite strong and with the exception of a few scenes where edge-enhancement was noticeable I really do not have much to be unhappy with. In fact, when blown through a digital projector the print remains impressively strong with detail still intact. Certainly this is one of the best looking Tavianis discs to be released in North America.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with a DD Italian track and optional, yellow, English subtitles the audio presentation here is quite strong. Dialog is very easy to follow, the soundtrack crisp, and the English translation adequate. I did not detect any disturbing hissing/cracks/or pop-ups. Indeed, in the audio department there is absolutely nothing to be concerned with.
Once again, Koch Lorber Films have provided a lovely 8-page booklet with an excellent essay about Fiorile by Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at Indiana University-Bloomington Peter Bondanella. Prof. Bondanella comments not only on the film's fascinating premise but the Tavianis well-documented political stance on a number of issues as well (indeed, their Marxists views are often easy to detect in their cinema). In addition, there is also a 55-minute featurette titled "The Boys from San Maniato: Meeting with Paolo and Vittorio Taviani", directed by Luciano Odorisio, where the two directors talk about their film, career, and legacy.
I am incredibly grateful to see that finally there is an English-friendly version of Fiorile. This is a simple, yet colorful, film about love told in the exquisite language of the Tavianis. The print provided by Koch Lorber Films is of very good quality and I could hardly think of a reason why you would not want to add Fiorile to your libraries. Highly Recommended.