November 6, 2016 -- A university lecture hall is the setting for some high tone literary lechery in this talky, slow-moving art film about a professor and his pretty young female students, who get his special attention. The professor's wife feels left out, for some reason.
Raffaele Pinto plays a philology professor teaching a class about muses in literature, including “The Divine Comedy” and the story of Lancelot and Guinevere. This is not a stretch for Pinto, because he is, in fact, a philology professor in real life.
The feminists in his class don't like the professor's notions about women serving as muses because that puts the woman in a position of subservience to the artist. In the classroom scenes there are lengthy discussions about this and other aspects of muses in literature.
If this sounds a bit dull and pedantic, it is, but the film also has scenes outside the classroom, even some field studies by a student interested in the songs of farmers and the sounds in the forests. There is also one scene with partial nudity of a female student who apparently is having an affair with the professor.
Mostly, however, the professor does all the talking. He talks, and talks, and talks, using elaborate justifications for his behavior, and the shabby way he treats his wife. He spends a lot of time in class talking about women who have affairs with married men, seemingly to attract more students to have affairs with him. His wife is aware of her husband's infidelity with a long line of women, but puts up with it.
The professor gets away with his bad behavior, because he is in in position of power. However, this does seem like the kind of behavior that can get one fired. The fact that he is willing to risk his career and livelihood for these romantic liaisons calls his judgment into question. The film was made, by director José Luis Guerín, at the University of Barcelona. The spoken languages in the film are Italian, Spanish and Catalan.
Since I don't speak any of these languages, I assume I am losing a lot in translation (the film has English subtitles). The visual style, and editing of the film are unusual. There are moments when the screen goes black. This was by design. The director says, “As a filmmaker I subordinated all my resources to the staging of word: to that infinite space opened through the confrontation between two faces. No rhetorical or stylistic added: nor music, or cross-fade, neither gimmicks mounting or descriptive plans, not even a single transition shoot. When I do not have image, I leave the black screen. No insert comes to disguise. Nothing to hide: the film assumes its industrial insecurity condition, it admits its modest tools: there is nothing to hide or conceal.”
So, it's an art film. It is not bad as art films go, but I really didn't buy what the director is selling here. It has the same drawback that most Woody Allen films have, interesting, pretty, but relatively powerless, easily manipulated, emotionally volatile women characters who are victimized by men. This film rates a C.
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