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Waking the Dead

The epitome of rugged macho, seldom without a cigarette dangling from his mouth, Squarciò defies the local law by tossing homemade explosives into the sea and filling his nets with the dead fish thus raised from the deep. He's the heart of the movie as well as the most successful of the local fishermen. The others, led by cannily understated Francisco Rabal, have banded together and pooled their resources, but Squarciò is, as he insouciantly admits, "not the co-op type." The script, cowritten by Pontecorvo's frequent collaborator Franco Solinas, is even more schematic than the direction. The filmmakers have a romantic sympathy for Squarciò's independent streak but clearly disapprove of his unfortunate individualism.

Perhaps Pontecorvo took as his model the most stylized of neorealists, Luchino Visconti; perhaps the technical aspects of the film precluded much spontaneity. In any case, the neophyte director has a tendency to pose his actors and musically overscore each new dramatic development. The combination can border on the ludicrous. Still, the open ending—which calls upon Squarciò's youngest and feistiest child to undertake an extraordinary feat—fully justifies the term "operatic."

The Wide Blue Road is more than a curio, if less than a success, but its release sheds welcome light on yet another substantial talent from the golden age of Italian cinema (still known mainly for The Battle of Algiers). Perhaps its appearance will inspire someone to rerelease Pontecorvo's follow-up, the flawed but powerful Auschwitz drama Kapo.

Living in a state of subterfuge: Anna Siskova and Csongor Kassai in Divided We Fall
photo: Martin Spelda
Living in a state of subterfuge: Anna Siskova and Csongor Kassai in Divided We Fall

Details

Divided We Fall
Directed by Jan Hrebejk
Written by Petr Jarchovsky, from his novel
Sony Pictures Classics
Opens June 8

The Wide Blue Road
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Written by Pontecorvo, Franco Solinas, and Ennio De Concini
Milestone
Film Forum
June 6 through June 19

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures
Directed by Jan Harlan
Warner Bros.
Walter Reade
June 12


Bordering on hagiography, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures was made by Kubrick associate Jan Harlan, in cooperation with the late filmmaker's family, and released by his longtime studio. The documentary portrait, which includes some fascinating childhood home movies of Kubrick and his kid sister as well as footage of the owlish potentate at work, leisurely tracks this supremely inner-directed and profoundly eccentric artist's journey from precocious success to reclusive legend. It's the legend, however, that is burnished with the elaborate care of the fastidious showroom lighting of Kubrick's last three movies.

Kubrick himself barely speaks—he hated interviews—but his technical genius is endorsed by everyone from Woody Allen to Jack Nicholson to Steven Spielberg to his wife and daughters, with Martin Scorsese's comments the most insightful. (Actually, the pithiest account of Kubrick's working method comes from Shelley Duvall: "Did you ever see the movie Groundhog Day?" she asks.) I confess to severely mixed feelings about nearly every movie in the Kubrick canon, from his disowned Fear and Desire to his unfinished Eyes Wide Shut, but the least I can say for Harlan's documentary is that it made me want to see them all again.

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