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Film Tue Sep 08 2015

Visconti's Obscure Gem, Sandra, to be Screened during Siskel's Cinema all'italiana

Lovers of Italian film and perhaps, all things Italian, have a feast in store this month at the Gene Siskel Film Center in its Cinema all'italiana. The series of post-neorealist Italian films runs through Sept. 30, featuring 11 films produced in the 1960s and later. Many of them are in new digital restorations.

Sandra, directed by Luchino Visconti, is a little known gem (1965, 105 minutes) that retells the Greek tragedy of Electra and her brother Orestes. The film is newly restored and the black-and-white cinematography is gorgeous, as are all the main characters.

Claudia Cardinale plays Sandra, who returns to the family home in the ancient town of Volterra with her American husband, Andrew, after being away for years. (Cardinale is beautiful and wears a perpetual frown throughout the film.) She's surprised to find her younger brother Gianni (Jean Sorel) there too. From the moment they meet, you can tell that their relationship is kind of, well, terribly affectionate.

The trailer below provides a visual preview of Sandra, but it's in Italian with French subtitles.

The original Italian title of the film is Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa, which is sometimes translated in English as Sandra of a Thousand Delights, even though the Italian words could be translated as "glimmering stars of the great bear." Gianni later reveals that he has written a novel about his adolescent life and has titled it, "Faint Stars of the Bear."

The plot involves Sandra's return to pay homage to her father, a Jewish scientist who was killed at Auschwitz. A ceremony is planned to unveil a sculpture and plaque in his honor. It soon is clear that Sandra suspects her mother, now hospitalized with a mental illness and being treated by her stepfather, of having betrayed her father. (Both siblings wear small star of David pendants.)

The story about the decline of an elite family and the crumbling estate and surroundings is reminiscent of the earlier Visconti film, The Leopard, set in Sicily in the 19th century (and adapted from the Giuseppe Di Lampedusa novel).

Sandra will be screened at the Siskel Center at 3pm Saturday, Sept. 12, and 6:15pm Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Other films in the Siskel's Italian film festival demonstrate how directors of this period built on the heritage of Italian neorealism and took it in new directions. These are some of the notable films being screened.

Padre Padrone (My Father, My Master), 1977, 114 minutes.
Directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, this film is based on the autobiography of a Sardinian shepherd who became a famous author and linguistics professor.

La Dolce Vita, 1960, 175 minutes.
This famous film directed by Federico Fellini depicts Rome as a contemporary, media-obsessed Babylon. Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg star.

I Compagni (The Organizer), 1963, 106 minutes.
Mario Monicelli directed this film about labor unrest in a Turin textile mill in the 19th century. Mastroianni stars again, but this time as a disheveled labor organizer.

L'Avventura (The Adventure), 1960, 143 minutes.
This is considered a key film in modernist cinema, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, who later directed the masterpieces, Blowup (1966) and The Passenger (1975). A boating party to a Sicilian island turns into a mystery story when one character disappears, but it's much more than a mystery.

How Strange to Be Named Federico, 2013, 90 minutes.
Ettore Scola directed this portrait of Federico Fellini, but it's not a documentary or a biopic, but a very personal tribute to the great director.

For details on these and the other films being shown during Cinema all'Italiana, see the website for the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St. Tickets are $11 for general admission and $6 for members.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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