Monday, September 04, 2023

La chimera / The Chimera (in the presence of Alice Rohrwacher)

Alice Rohrwacher: La chimera / The Chimera (IT/FR/CH 2023).

Sheridan Opera House, Telluride Film Festival (TFF), 3 Sep 2023.

Larry Gross (TFF 2023): " Alice Rohrwacher has crafted a disquieting and beautiful dream, a tragicomic fable set in the Tuscan village of Riparbella in the 1980s. Arthur (Josh O’Connor, GOD’S OWN COUNTRY, The Crown) is a disheveled English ex-pat, fixated on a lost love. His skills as an archaeologist are misused by a group of sweet, comically inept tombaroli—tomb-raiders—who transmute the exquisite items he digs into quick bucks. O’Connor’s superb, nearly wordless performance is Chaplinesque in its spiritual purity amidst a sordid world of poverty and crime. Alba Rohrwacher, Isabella Rossellini and Carol Duarte, as the woman who might rescue Arthur, offer fine support. The central attraction, however, is the extraordinary physical world Alice Rohrwacher and her astonishing cinematographer Hélène Louvart create. LA CHIMERA has enough force and elegance to convince skeptics to believe in ghosts. " –LG (Italy-France-Switzerland, 2023, 133 m) In person: Alice Rohrwacher

Festival premiere: 26 May 2023 Cannes Film Festival.
American festival premiere: 3 Sep 2023 Telluride Film Festival.
Italian premiere: 23 Nov 2023.

AA: Alice Rohrwacher's early films Corpo celeste and Le meraviglie started with the image of a light shining in the darkness. That image is also central in La chimera, the tale about the tomb raiders of Tuscany. But here the light is an agent of destruction. When light penetrates the ancient tombs, the fabulous wall paintings lose their brilliant colour in an instant, an image familiar from Fellini. The eternal dimension of the sacred is destroyed and priceless treasures turn into mundane merchandise.

In Oscar Wilde's Lady Wintermere's Fan, Lord Darlington said that a cynic is "a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing". That's what we are now. The archeologist Arthur (Josh O'Connor) faces an existential crisis in prostituting his craft.

It is more than a craft. Arthur has a sixth sense, and with a divining rod he is able to find hidden caves and tombs. Some may find this unbelievable, but Alice Rohrwacher believes in miracles. Blogging about Le meraviglie I wrote that there are people for whom there are no miracles and people for whom everything is a miracle. Rohrwacher belongs to the latter category. Also in Le meraviglie, ancient Etruscan rites were evoked, the image of the cave was meaningful, and the merciless clash between tradition and modernity was central.

At the end of the day I was tired, lost focus and need to see La chimera again. Random notes:

La chimera is an Alice Rohrwacher film but also a crime story, a thriller, an adventure (like Raiders of the Lost Ark) and a heist comedy (like Ocean's Eleven). 

A powerful image: the stinking tramp who turns out to be a brilliant archeologist. 

A community of women squatting an abandoned Riparbella train station is the counter-image to the world of abuse in La chimera.

The final images are about liberation: from confinement to freedom. Being buried in a broken tunnel. Being saved by Ariadne's thread. A flock of birds flying in the sky.

The music is jubilant and enchanting. There is a lovely theme ballad about the tomb raiders.

Hélène Louvart's cinematography is perfect in turning neorealism into magical realism. 

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