Venice film praised as symbol of Italy quagmire

'Via Castellana Bandiera' set in jammed one-way street

Venice film praised as symbol of Italy quagmire

Venice, August 29 - 'Via Castellana Bandiera', a film that premiered at the Venice Film Festival Thursday, is being applauded by critics and audiences alike as a jigsaw allegory of Italy's current political and economic woes. The story is about two women in the outskirts of Palermo, Sicily who must resolve a two-car traffic jam. The two remain shut in their vehicles, tied off in a violent-yet-silent duel that is fought out with stares and gestures, increasing in intensity despite the Palermo sun heating up, the hot wind rising and the crowds who are drawn to the spectacle. The alley, wedged between a series of unfinished buildings - probably without the necessary zoning - is garnished with rubbish, water leaks, bits of wood and an intense heat that drapes itself over the entire neighbourhood. In a situation reminiscent of politics in recession-hit Italy, both women are convinced they are going the right way up a one-way street. "The whole of Italy is today blocked in a stalemate, in a quagmire from which we cannot escape, a precipice we haven't even been able to fall off of due to overwhelming fear, even though it would have been constructive to do so as to permit a rebirth," said first-time filmmaker Emma Dante, an acclaimed theater director and actress, who plays one of the drivers. Speaking after a press screening with fellow cast members, she swears her take on the southern Italian isle is authentic, not artificial. It's based in "Palermo, in the south, but it could even be in the north. It's narrow, like a blocked artery," said Dante. Elena Cotta, 82, the other driver, also whips up a magnificent performance in what is her first foray off the theatre stage and onto the red carpet. Dante's partner in the film is actress Alba Rohrwacher, with whom she is involved in an intense romantic relationship on screen. Rohrwacher's character, with a black line tattooed on her neck, makes an excellent rendition of the raw personality of a determined woman. "It's a perfect story for cinema, I really needed the dusty grit, and carnal aspect of the people involved. The story is the Western I had always looked for: the concept of a challenge is an integral part of being a human being," Dante said. The two women dig deep in their souls and pull out all that they have inside that people tend to bury and hide. They are two real-life women, with no extraordinary traits. Not even their folly is extraordinary. The folly of the situation is ridiculous, miserable, Dante says. It reflects "the alley in which all of us want to pass undeterred without letting anyone else pass, while in reality it is a Milky Way that could accommodate everyone, but we insist on seeking to make it our own private property, like often is the case in Italy", Dante said. The film is based on the eponymous book. Dante rebels against the image of the southern Italian city some say appears to emerge from the film as being one of a rugged, melancholic and difficult location. "I know my city, for me it is a tower from which to observe the nation and a community," she said. "I speak of a non-geographic state of being. And Via Castellana Bandiera is a street that is a symbol, besides the fact that it actually exists. It moves like a lung that breathes".

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