So it seems that TNR (that’s The New Republic for you nonhipsters) featured a review of Clint Eastwood’s latest war flick American Sniper based solely on the trailer. This has people riled up, which I hate, because riling people back down leaves a massive carbon footprint.
I don’t see what all the huggah-muggah is about. Any eejit can review a movie based on its trailer. Try and review a movie that hasn’t been made yet — for which there isn’t even a script!
That’s where I come in (having been ceremoniously kicked out only a week ago, flags waving).
Please enjoy my review of Garibaldi, written and directed by Umberto Pascoletti (A Bag Full of Communism).
It has often been said that nations aren’t so much born as bled. I don’t know who said that first, but I’m ashamed of repeating it, because it doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. But the 19th century was rife with revolutionary movements and nation-builders, what with all the decent brick-laying jobs having been eaten up by guys named Aldo.
Italy was no different, except it was very different, and not in a way that gets a sandwich named after you. Divided among empires for centuries, that mercurial peninsula yearned for a nation-state like that of France and Spain and that other one shaped like a yew tree. Enter Giuseppe Garibaldi and his red-shirted band of soldier-types. Having fought for years in South America for reasons still unclear, the Garibaldini were heralded as the saviors of the fatherland who would throw off the yoke of the Spanish and the French and the Austrians and that guy, oh what’s his name, and unite a poor “geographical expression” into something that would one day make men’s suits cost more than a black-market kidney.
Exalting in victories and bewailing defeats, suffering exile to England (and enjoying a celebrity status that would be equaled only by the Beatles thirty years later only don’t quote me on that because math) but returning to the battlefield to finally hand over the keys of a new nation to a midget king, Garibaldi and his rag-tag army exemplify unmatched bravery, unyielding loyalty, and a Latin machismo that would choke a pride of lions. Plus, Pope Pius IX runs screaming from the Vatican, which is always fun.
Unfortunately, none of this is on display in the new film by director Umberto Pascoletti, whose previous work was celebrated as “a return to the glory days of neo-realism” by someone who thought Vittorio De Sica was a sports car. Pascoletti based his unwritten screenplay not on any of a half-dozen biographies of the Italian general, but on a haiku published in an Alitalia in-flight magazine. The entire three hours and fifty minutes (or so it seemed) is taken up with Garibaldi’s short sojourn to Staten Island, New York, in which he visits the home of Italian-American inventor Antonio Meucci, and discusses in mind-numbing depth the significance of opposite-side-of-the-street parking to Hegelian metaphysics.
Shot in black and white and later “textured” in Photoshop, with sound editing that makes Interstellar intelligible, Garibaldi fails to engage, uplift, thrill, or enlighten. Harvey Fishbein’s performance as the great soldier suffers from a total lack of talent on the part of the actor. Lackluster to the point of no damn luster at all, Fishbein seems completely disinterested in his character, and at times even begins making personal phone calls to his agent as his costars gesticulate wildly. Kevin O’Dooley as journalist and activist Giuseppe Mazzini offers the occasional moment of comic relief, as when he mistakes King Victor Emmanuel for a dry cleaner and upbraids him for “feeble” creases. And the cameo by Robert DeNiro as Giuseppe Verdi made me damn sick of how uninventive some cultures can be when it comes to Christian names.
Why the director thought it necessary to include English subtitles when the film was made in English remains a mystery, or why Staten Island looks so much like the Bahamas. I wish I could say there was some redeeming social or entertainment value in this ludicrous attempt at historical revisionism masquerading as epic but I would be lying, and I save all my lying for my freelance stuff.
Lacking in ideas, bereft of focus, lost in its own solipsistic worldview, Garibaldi is an academic’s dream but a damn waste of a Regal gift card. It almost makes one wish it won’t be made.
I give the film one and a half provolones.