La sapienza Screen 25 articles

La sapienza

2014

La sapienza Poster
  • La Sapienza is lazily content to draw on the exact same set of formal strategies (constant cuts back and forth between frontal shots, stylised movement, dialogue delivered with the monotony of a language learning tape) employed to more fitting effect in The Portuguese Nun, with all the studied artificiality just serving to inflate this already over-determined story of chance encounters, architectural pontificating, and converging destinies to the point of ridiculousness.

  • It wears its many influences on its sleeve, but offers little style of its own, and its own insights – into marriage, love, beauty, architecture – come across as so trite and simplistic that the suggestion that it’s a parody of a certain type of arthouse film (which I heard from several bemused critics throughout the Festival) has stuck with me. If it is, it’s not a particularly incisive or funny one.

  • During the first week, there were critics who lavished compliments on Eugène Green’s La sapienza, an idiosyncratic drama about Baroque art and a middle age couple’s reawakening. Others (myself included) couldn’t connect with its highly mannered filmmaking, but New York can judge for itself when the film plays at NYFF.

  • I'm a sucker for Green's formal approach, and if I had more time, or were being paid, I'd write at length about his use of declamatory acting and how much more effective it is than Oliveira's. (Very disorienting to see Fabrizio Rongione be thoroughly Greened so soon after Two Days, One Night.) Here, however, he's indulging a fascination with 17th-century architecture that I don't happen to share, and there's nothing else to grab onto, content-wise...

  • The film lacks the lightheartedness of 2003’s The Living World or 2004’s Le Pont des Arts. The director’s career-long celebration of high culture has begun to calcify into a kind of sneer, notably in a scene featuring an entitled Australian tourist.

  • I’ve enjoyed some of Eugène Green’s previous films, but La Sapienza left me cold... The melodramatic family backstories—an ailing marriage, a dead child, and a pair of over-fond siblings—certainly made La Sapienza feel like a soap opera written by a screenwriting team schooled in minimalist modernism. In theory, a potentially fascinating mismatch, but sadly not in this case.

  • It is only when La Sapienza verges on camp that it comes alive. Otherwise, it is a dull, ingratiating affair. It takes place in an imaginary Europe more likely to be found in Orlando than Paris, while its style seems to be patched together out of half-remembered tidbits from nearly every trend in the European art film. It was only when I put on the appropriate parody glasses – when I began to see the film as a spoof – that I started to enjoy it.

  • It is rare that the mere visual description of space can produce a shock for the viewer. However, the opening moments of Sapience—in which Green spends minutes gazing upon classical European structures, only to cut them down with an agonizing edit to a modern factory landscape—quite literally took my breath away.

  • Green creates in La Sapienza’s middle hour one of the great documents of an architect’s magisterial brilliance to appear in cinema, evoking the canted architectural studies of German experimental filmmaker Heinz Emigholz...

  • Green's mannered direction doesn't work for every situation it's homogenously applied to (the broadness of one comedy bit featuring an Australian tourist is illuminated rather than concealed by the stiff staging), but at its most effective it inspires an enhanced sensitivity to the import of every gesture, visual or verbal.

  • La Sapienza is a pretty lovely film. Symmetricities are everywhere, starting with that opening architectural showreel, which deliberately avoids perfect symmetricity. Panning up a wall’s ridges, one side has a ladder, the other doesn’t; in a shot recording an interior church ceiling’s sun-god-ish central figure, the mirroring curves on the right are just cut off.

  • With its lengthy voice-over on Borromini versus his better known nemesis Bernini, the film recalls the Locarno 2012-premiering Museum Hours – though the latter might be more effective, Sapienza also examines the role of artistic tradition and its philosophies in modern life.Q

  • The deliberately stilted acting of Fabrizio Rongone and Christelle Prot Landman as a discontented middle-class couple embarking on a trip to Italic parts from their home in Paris, combined with languorous views of lusciously filmed baroque European architecture, has the potential to make for a deadeningly mannered affair, but the film was significantly leavened by Green’s taste for moments of fiendish humour.

  • A film of ideas—specifically, ideas about architecture and 17th-century culture—might sound like a dull academic exercise, but Green has too much of a personal take on the subject matter and too much of a sense of humor to make it come across that way.

  • Being a manifesto on how language is the real theater of ideas and feelings, and a fragile and endangered foundation of humanity, the film walks a thin line when facing its audience, bravely running the risk to be misunderstood or partly / superficially understood by those who do not follow the original version in all its subtleties... But it is worth the challenge: Green's approach is not about witticism... it is about language as a matter of life and death, of light versus darkness.

  • Eugene Green’s unique brand of art-house provocation — featuring stilted, frontal conversations about high-minded subjects — is not for all tastes, but this film, which tackles happiness, fulfillment, and architecture as its subjects, might be his most immersive work yet.

  • The strategy is pure Green. He transposes baroque theatrical devices to film. This calls for stilted speech and direct address to the camera. Artifice is the base. The usual distractions for understanding a character are lacking. We are left with dialogue itself. It may sound boring, but it is anything but. I call it fascinating.

  • [Green's] lovely, unexpectedly moving La Sapienza may use a philosophical and aesthetic inquiry into the work of Baroque architect Francesco Borromini as a springboard, but what the film is reallyabout are the natural elements of living, applicable to then or now: love, aging, grief, and spirituality, individually and all at once, and how those elements inhabit our lives.

  • The tactic that Green has developed for shooting dialogue scenes is to film the speakers facing one another... dead-on, face forward. The result is a consistent tone of direct, rather urgent tenderness; one feels that one is being taken firmly in hand and being told that This, This Is Important, and never so much so as when Green’s craning camera leads the eye on a guided tour up and along the details of some of the masterpieces of Italian Baroque architecture.

  • Most American studio pictures allot a separate shot for each character’s line, and Green does much the same, but his pace never seems as rushed. I think it’s partly because of the pauses between lines, which allow us to wait for more from the speaker, or to anticipate how the listener will react... The film harks back to a great tradition of disenchanted couples visiting alien places. And the actors, particularly Christelle Prot as the wife, have an intelligent vivacity.

  • The camerawork within the Borromini buildings is rhapsodic. As Alexandre explains that the architect employed strict geometries to create a sense of movement, the camera pans horizontally, then sweeps vertically—triumphantly—toward the interiors’ crowning regions. Green’s mise en scène makes the spaces feel alive, both with the history they’ve witnessed and as embodiments of the artist whose aesthetic decisions they harmoniously relay.

  • The fifth feature by writer-director Eugene Green, an American expatriate who's lived in France since the 1970s, is a characteristically eccentric comedy about urban planning and spiritual longing... This recalls Manoel de Oliveira and Eric Rohmer in its poker-faced style, deliberately archaic storytelling, and magisterial epiphanies.

  • Green conjures vast ideas from this intimate story, filming architectural wonders with analytical ardor and revealing the architects’ discovery of the importance of light in design. Green’s richly textured, painterly images fuse with the story to evoke the essence of humane urbanity and the relationships that it fosters, whether educational, familial, or erotic.

  • “La Sapienza” strikes this reviewer as easily the most astonishing and important movie to emerge from France in quite some time. While its style deserves to be called stunningly original and rapturously beautiful, the film is boldest in its artistic and philosophical implications, which pointedly go against many dominant trends of the last half-century.

  • In Green’s films, it’s hard not to marvel at his command of a very particular tone, how all the Brechtian devices that seem like they should push the viewer away instead foster an acutely intimate ambience, and how the actors’ mannered performance style conveys (rather than obscures) real depths of emotion. Landman is a radiant comic presence with wide, absorbent eyes that seem unusually attune to the world around her.

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