January 21, 2017 -- This is kind of like a surrealistic road movie, with the classic Italian character Pulcinella (played by Sergio Vitolo) as the film's main character. Sergio Vitolo, an Italian film director, plays Pulcinella, then himself in the movie after he is unmasked. There are aspects of documentary in this fantasy drama hybrid movie.
Pulcinella, wearing a standard kind of mask for this classic character, is granted the gift of speech and walks to Campania to save a hapless buffalo, Sarchiapone, from slaughter. Sarchiapone, being a male buffalo, is considered worthless, but he is rescued by the heroic shepherd Tommaso Cestrone (playing himself) a man who has dedicated himself to the rescue of the historic Carditello Palace, which is falling into ruin.
In this movie, Sarchiapone can speak and Pulcinella can hear him, but only as long as Pulcinella wears his mask. Pulcinella does wear the mask for the most of the movie, as man and buffalo walk together here and there, looking for a place where Sarchiapone will be allowed to live in peace. Pulcinella picks up Sarchiapone at the Carditello Palace, where Tommaso had left him after he died. We continue to see Tommaso's ghost through the rest of the film as he haunts the Palace he loves.
As Pulcinella and Sarchiapone wander through the country seeking shelter and sanctuary, man and beast seem to get along just fine, but eventually, Pulcinella seems to weary of this quest and tries to pawn off Sarchiapone onto another man, Gesuino Pittalis (also playing himself) who lives alone in a cave. Pittalis herds sheep, and also hunts for buried Etruscan relics in the area. Pulcinella tells Pittalis that Tomasso has died and that he wanted him to care for Sarchiapone. Pittalis agrees, but he has no intention of caring for the buffalo. Instead, he conspires with a farmer to fatten up Sarchiapone so they can slaughter and eat him.
The movie begins and ends with pictures of a slaughterhouse. There are also scenes in the movie which apparently have to do with the fact that the Carditello Palace was acquired by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage in 2014 and saved from destruction, in no small part to the efforts Tommaso Cestrone, who actually did die on Christmas Day in 2013 (during the making of this film) which is noted in the movie. The movie was released in Italy in November of 2015.
The movie also documents the fact that Tommaso Cestrone, “the Angel of Corditello,” continued his efforts to save the palace located near his property, despite the fact that organized crime figures tried to intimidate him by burning his car and killing some of his sheep. The movie also has themes of nature being despoiled by man (in this case organized crime activities) and the relationship of man to other animals.
This film is a mixture of drama, fantasy and documentary that at times is whimsical. There is more than a hint of sadness in it, but it is also a salute to the nobility of men like Tommaso Cestrone. This film is a fitting tribute to him. This film rates a B.
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