I finally saw Paolo and Vittorio Taviani‘s Ceasar Must Die over the weekend. About four hours ago I drove down to the Four Seasons to speak to them — an honor. The Tavianis, 81 and 83 respectively, are mythic. The first movie review I ever had published in New York City was a spring 1978 piece on the Taviani’s Padre Padrone for the Chelsea Clinton News.
Vittorio and Palo Taviani at the Four Seasons — Monday, 11.12, 12:55 pm.
Here’s the mp3 but it’s a little rough as the Tavianis don’t speak English and a translator was back-and-forthing.
Ceasar Must Die is a documentary (almost entirely, I mean) about Italian prisoners putting on a presentation of William Shakespeare‘s Julius Caesar. The idea is basically that guys who’ve known violence and savagery in their lives and are now paying for these sins are enlivened and emboldened and humbled and otherwise moved by the acting out of this famous melodrama.
I liked it. The scheme, the acting, the black-and-white photography. It’s clean and sharp and humane and itself moving. It’s the official Italian submission for Best Foreign-Language Film.
Caesar Must Die was the surprise winner of the Golden Bear at the last February’s Berlin International Film Festival . The Hollywood Reporter described the outcome as “a major upset,” and Der Spiegel said it was a “very conservative selection.”
Here’s how I put it nine months ago: “A jury led by Mike Leigh looked at the doc and apparently decided the following before making their announcement: ‘Giving the prize to the Taviani brothers is not just a vote of approval for their latest film but also a way of honoring their past works and particularly the cinema of the ’70s and ’80s. We will also be saluting creative endeavor by artists of advanced years, which is something we all need to honor and support because we’ll all be there before you know it. This award will also be perceived as a metaphorical renunciation of the lamentable tendencies of the present. So it will be the right thing to do all around, and when it’s done we can all go home and smile at ourselves in the bathroom mirror.'”