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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Academy of Muses

Drama or perhaps romantic comedy of a documentary or fiction

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2016; La Academia de las Muses, Spanish, Catalan, Italian) A drama or perhaps romantic comedy of professor of philology Raffaele Pinto with his students at the University of Barcelona, having the idea of resurrecting the Academy of Muses, in a documentary (all characters are playing themselves) or fiction involving his suspicious wife (noting her husband's strange behavior) Rosa Delor Muns, also a professor of philology and a critic. In Dr Pinto's lectures he provokes discussion. Poetry is the music (from muse) that gave birth to civilization.

In The Divine Comedy, Dante encounters Francesca, who doesn't feel guilty, in the circles of hell for having committed adultery with Paolo. Did Queen Guinevere kiss Lancelot, or did he kiss her first? Does it matter? Heloise felt a boundless love for a mortal - "No, not God! I love Abelard" - at a time when flesh was finite, as a student contributes to the discussion: "Boundless love was exclusive to God."

A male student inquires: "What should the muses inspire in us?" "Admiration," answers Pinto in director/writer Josť Luis Guerin's look at how love and life's other experiences are enhanced or altered by literature, beginning in November, ending the following March. Two female students outside of class consider whether sexual tension may or may not be consummated to be regarded as desire. Too often desire is confused with sexuality.

At home, Rosa insists to Raffaele: "Love is an invention of literature," a terrible and harmful effect of poetry. "You said that we women should lead the change, through desire, to recover the aesthetic taste for beauty," says a female student before disagreeing. Someone else questions: "What is beauty?"

There is no escaping language, Dr Pinto declares, to which we are all prisoners. Both sexes have responsibility with active roles, he continues. The myth, such as that of Pygmalion, became history when Dante created his own muse in Beatrice, always keeping her at a distance. Such a muse, Rosa later critiques, is passive, unaware. "I'm here to sow doubts," Raffaele replies.

His student Carolina Llacher confides her uncertainty of how the setting of her affair that took place on an island with waves of the sea may have intensified her experience. She becomes less enthusiastic toward the Academy after Dr Pinto criticizes her poems, not for their content but for their inferior form of free verse. A student remarks that writers who made women objects of worship in their stories were worse than atheists.

After a long romance online with exchange of messages, a girl admits that actually meeting him was a disappointment for them both. Another girl narrates to Dr Pinto how she suffers from her boyfriend's leaving her for a former girlfriend, he being unaware of her deep feelings for him. A mother tells her daughter of the myth of Cupid's arrows affecting Apollo and Daphne oppositely, she turning into a laurel tree.

The significance of Orpheus's poetry was to engage with the dead, says Dr Pinto: "Garcilasco added a new element. The muse dies, like so many others, from Beatrice onwards, because muses have to connect the poet and the realm of the dead, but in this case the muse was murdered!" He asks his students: "Who killed Elisa?" A student contributes that from "nymph" we have the term "nymphomania," suggestive of sexual liberation.

In Sardinia, a female student, accompanied by Dr Pinto, records shepherds singing and reciting poetry. One tells her how crows, which are protected, kill lambs. Dr Pinto rebukes her for thinking that her love for one of the shepherds depends on him, for such love, from which her true character emerges, only depends on herself.

Dr Pinto discusses love, possession, and jealousy with a female student. Raffaele says to Rosa that their long relationship as a couple requires freedom. Poems without muses to supply light in the darkness are "solipsistic madness."

In Napoli with Mireia Iniesta ("only muses understand muses") for the weekend, who inspires Raffaele to compose a sonnet, he takes her to the volcanic crater of Lake Averno (supposedly where Dante entered the Underworld with his guide Virgil in The Inferno) into the Grotto of Sybil. "Your desire is mine," he says, only upon being declared. Accusing him of leading a double life, Rosa reproaches Raffaele's explanation of his trips with students as part of the risk involved with teaching them: "But you're not Socrates."

Worried about Raffaele's rearrangement of the books in their library, an ill omen, she meets with Mireia, who confidently admits to having become one of his principle muses, regarding her spending the weekend with her husband, speaking of herself as his "shield." In the epilogue, Raffaele sits beside a woman (seen only once previously), their dialogue silent, inside a car as rain falls.

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Copyright © 2016 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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