Review: A street in Palermo-Via Castellana Bandiera (2013)


Directed by: Emma Dante | 92 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Emma Dante, Alba Rohrwacher, Elena Cotta, Renato Malfatti, Dario Casarolo, Carmine Maringola, Sandro Maria Campagna, Elisa Parrinello, Giuseppe Tantillo, Daniela Macaluso, Marcella Colaianni, Giacomo Guernieri

In the beginning of ‘Una via a Palermo’ something strange is going on. The characters are mostly filmed from behind. Their faces remain hidden from the viewer. As a result, the characters are not only people of flesh and blood, but also metaphors for today’s Italy. The situation in the country in 2014 is still messy. Politics is in chaos. The differences between Northern Italy and the Southern part are large. The differences between men and women have also remained intact since ancient times. Modern progress has further sharpened the contradictions. Some of them agree, the rest give up and would rather keep everything as it was. They are all unhappy. The characters in ‘Una via a Palermo’ are therefore the archetypes of present-day Italy.

The differences that exist in society cannot help but lead to a head-on collision. ‘Una via a Palermo’ shows the moment just before that collision. The film does this in a literal way when a female couple in one of the narrow roads on the Italian island of Sicily is confronted by a car containing an entire family, led by grandmother Samira. Overtaking is not an option. Return is the only option. However, both directors do not want to budge. The women stubbornly remain in place. They refuse food and drink. Sleep is a weakness. As a result of this status quo, the entire street is out to express their opinions. Women show that they are not only stubborn, but also strong. Men try to shout their faded blazon.

It is young and old who oppose each other here. The traditional family versus free-spirited emancipation. Above all, it is the clash between modern and ancient Italy, who cannot let go of their own perception of the world. Both wants to continue on the path they have taken. But such a future is inconceivable. In accordance with the lack of space in the street, the camera stays close to the characters. There is no escape from the problems. The deadlock in Italy has lasted long enough, as first-time director Emma Dante implies here. But the volatile handheld camera also shows that an agreement will be far from streamlined. More mutual understanding and awareness of time is needed to progress. The standstill can have a cathartic effect in this. The narrow passage in which the two cars face each other is now gradually widened by a mechanical wall. Ultimately, the barriers within society mainly exist in the minds of the people themselves.

Dante keeps it light by not wanting to preach too moralizing. However, don’t expect corny jokes and fun. ‘Una via a Palermo’ is not a typical thigh squirt but a more subtle, satirical comedy. This is mainly reflected in the crazy situations in which the characters end up. The fact that ‘Una via a Palermo’ is so metaphorical therefore works surprisingly well. This is also due to the fact that the contradictions are magnified so much and the differences between the archetypes are clearly delineated. Filmmaker Dante knows how to explain in great detail what the problems are in her country. The way in which she does this makes ‘Una via a Palermo’ more than worthy of prestige.

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