Friday, March 18, 2016

Movie Review: Blood of My Blood

Blood of My Blood
Directed by: Marco Bellocchio.
Written by: Marco Bellocchio.
Starring: Roberto Herlitzka (Conte), Pier Giorgio Bellocchio (Federico), Alba Rohrwacher (Maria Perletti), Lidiya Liberman (Benedetta), Federica Fracassi (Marta Perletti), Toni Bertorelli (Dott. Cavanna), Fausto Russo Alesi (Cacciapuoti), Alberto Cracco (Inquisitore Francescano), Bruno Cariello (Angelo), Filippo Timi (Il pazzo), Elena Bellocchio (Elena), Ivan Franek (Rikalkov), Patrizia Bettini (Moglie del conte), Sebastiano Filocamo (Padre confessore), Alberto Bellocchio (Cardinal Federico Mai).
Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio has been directing films for 50 years now – his debut film, Fists in the Pocket (1965) may still be his best known, and is certainly a masterwork. I’m not sure he ever quite gets the credit he deserves for how good he is, and I include myself there, as I certainly need to see more of his work (I haven’t disliked any of the films I have seen). His latest film, Blood of My Blood, is an ambitious and ambiguous film, showing once again that this director – now in his late 70s – isn’t going to take it easy in his remaining years. The film is a beautiful, haunting and confounding film – one that I think demands a second viewing (at least) to truly understand it – particularly in how the two distinct halves of the movie relate to each other (although, even on first viewing, you can clearly see some echoes in each half). It’s also a film that continues to grow in your mind after seeing – calling you back to it.
Both halves of the film take place in Bellocchio’s hometown of Bobbio, Italy – centuries apart. In the first, set during the Inquisition period, a soldier, Federico (Pier Giorgio Bellocchio) arrives the Bobbio monastery, upset that his brother has been given a sinner’s funeral. His brother has recently committed suicide, but has always been a devout man with the Church. He talks to the Priest in charge (Fausto Russo Alesi), who informs Federico that what needs to happen is that a young, beautiful nun, Benedetta (Lidiya Liberman) needs to confess – she was close to Federico’s brother near the year, and many think she was in league with the Devil, poking and prodding the devout man to commit suicide. She is forced to endure a series of painful “tests” to prove she is not in league with the Devil after all. Federico becomes torn when he, like his brother, falls for Benedetta – and he is torn apart by his own doubts.
The second half of the film talks place in modern Bobbio, where a man from the tax office, Federico (Bellocchio, again), arrives with a Russian billionaire in tow, who wants to buy the monastery (or prison as they now call it), to either turn it into a musical rehab place for drug addicts, or a luxury hotel – whatever. The problem is the dilapidated monastery isn’t as empty as people think – the Count (Roberto Herlitzka) has been living there for 8 years, hidden away from his wife, and most of the rest of the town (oh, and he’s a vampire). He remains a powerful man however – with ties to the town council – but now he must come out and deal with these outsiders.
The first half of the film is stronger than the second. It’s more beautiful, haunting and enigmatic than the second, with a brilliant score, and a haunting choral version of a Metallica song which is somehow the absolutely perfect choice for it. The second half is a little more obvious – as Bellocchio seems to be taking some rather easy shots as the emptiness of modern life. But it’s still wonderful to watch him work.
At the end of Blood of My Blood, I felt the urge to go back and watch it again – which seeing as how I saw it at TIFF, was impossible at the time. The film is confounding, but in a pleasurable way. Does everything add up in Blood of My Blood. I’m honestly not sure – but I’m also sure I don’t much care. It’s always wonderful to see a great director pushing himself even late in his career – and that’s certainly the case with Blood of My Blood. I just hope this one doesn’t get lost in the shuffle – like far too many recent Bellocchio films have.
Note: As far as I can tell, this film is not getting a theatrical release in North America any time soon. I did notice that it is available on iTunes (in Canada anyway), so I’m posting my review that I wrote after last year’s TIFF, where I saw it.

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