Night of the Shooting Stars / La notte di San Lorenzo (1982)

4.0 out of 5

Moving yet gut-wrenching historical drama about the plight of a small Italian town shortly before WW II liberation. The shifting tone from light to inevitably dark and tragic comes so fast and with such shocking effect, the movie is plenty tough yet capable of sustaining its themes without pandering. To call the movie anti-war is a disservice, as its the kind of war movie that simply tells a story and presents its characters with with a meager amount of melodrama or weepy orchestration.

The townspeople make little sense in the beginning, just as their violent dislocation from their town creates even more maddening behavioral changes. Obviously a low-budget film, due to the minimum amount of production design or large-scale war movie props. What the directors, the Taviani brothers, achieve through clever sound design, off-screen space, plus the often confusing screen transplanting of his excellent cast, show just how much drama can be created through imagination and talent. A film that qualifies as "powerful" without dripping with Spielbergian contrivances and the overwrought message-sending that so often accompany European war dramas.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics