Lost And Beautiful


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Lost And Beautiful
"Lost And Beautiful is filmed on expired 16mm film stock, in keeping with its themes, and the result is a delicate, watery palette which gives it a unique beauty."

Once upon a time there was a Bourbon palace known as Carditello, standing in relative isolation in the Campania region of Italy. Once home to Neapolitan monarchs, it was long ago left to crumble, and remains standing today only thanks to the devoted efforts of a shepherd who was not willing to see its beauty and its history lost.

There is a book, Viaggio In Italia by Guido Piovene, which presents a tour of Italy told through the stories of shepherds. Director Pietro Marcello had this in mind when he began filming with the man known locally at the Angel of Carditello, Tommaso Cestrone; but things didn't go to plan. Firstly, Cestrone's story, which involved hard work, government neglect and threats from the Camorra, proved too compelling to comprise just one chapter; it would have been difficult to find suitable material to balance it. Secondly, after Marcello had devoted quite a bit of time to filming with him, Cestrone died, leaving the director adrift.

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Unexpected events like this are difficult to fit into a modern narrative format but they make perfect sense within the contours of Etruscan myth. Over the past couple of years there has been something of a craze for blending documentary and fiction, but this film has a better excuse for it than most. In Cestrone's absence, the emotional core of the film lies in what is dear to him: a bull calf named Sarchiapone. To help the calf continue his journey, Marcello calls upon the Etruscan demigod Pulcinella, whose false nose and conical hat give him the appearance of a classic Fool, always a complicated character. In Campania he is well known as a figure from the commedia dell'arte. The various locals we meet - none of them professional actors - take his presence in their stride, and often make smll gestures of assistance to aid him in his task.

In order that he might contribute his ow thoughts to the film, Sarchiapone is given a voice, actor Elio Germano lending his considerable vocal talents. Sometimes he narrates; sometimes he passively listens as Pulcinella discourses to him. Of course, as a bull calf, he doesn't have a lot to look forward to in life, but for the most part his attentions are focused on the present as he enjoys the beauty of the world he is discovering, echoing the guidebook aspects of Piovene's work from a more naive perspective. The calf himself is charismatic and his gestures and expressions remind us that there is a real life at stake in this increasingly fictional tale. In a brief dream of freedom, of a world without humans - a world where all their palaces have crumbled - he rolls in the grass, revelling in the simple joy of being alive.

Sarchiappone's inability to take control of his own fate provides an apt contrast to Cestrone's determination to arrest the fate of the Carditello. Mortality is as inevitable here as the hierarchy which makes some monarchs and others peasants or slaves, yet Cestrone's abrupt death seems almost like punishment for his usurpation if the role of the divine. Only Pulchinella can act as he pleases, moving between the natural and supernatural worlds.

Lost And Beautiful is filmed on expired 16mm film stock, in keeping with its themes, and the result is a delicate, watery palette which gives it a unique beauty. It is undeniably pretentious and its meandering story can get very slow in places, so it's not a film for everyone, but if you're more inclined toward quiet afternoons in art galleries than watching the latest blockbuster, you may find its refined yet playful approach quite magical.

Reviewed on: 07 Mar 2017
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Documentary and fiction blend in a tale of ancient palaces, devoted shepherds and a young calf contemplating his fate.

Director: Pietro Marcello

Writer: Maurizio Braucci, Pietro Marcello

Starring: Elio Germano, Gesuino Pittalis, Sergio Vitolo, Tommaso Cestrone

Year: 2015

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: Italy

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