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Koch Lorber presents

Kaos (1984)

"Certain things, you can't even imagine them, sir."- Grazia (Margarita Lozano)

Stars: Margarita Loano, Claudio Bigagli, Massimo Bonetti, Maria Modugno, Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia, Biagio Barone, Omero Antonutti, Regina Bianchi
Director: Paolo & Vittorio Taviani

MPAA Rating: RRun Time: 03h:09m:10s
Release Date: 2008-04-01
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BCB- D+


DVD Review

Finding the right film sensibility for a highly idiosyncratic author can be a challenge, but Luigi Pirandello is fortunate to have such able interpreters in Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. Pirandello, whose writings combine an absurdism with an almost anthropological eye for his native Sicily, may be best known in the English-language world for plays like Six Characters in Search of an Author, but it's his fiction that provides the basis for the Tavianis' screenplay. The film is an omnibus of Pirandello short stories, and does lots of small things well—there are no shortage of charming, lovely moments, and baffling and compelling images. But the movie runs more than three hours, and it can make you a little antsy—it's really not an epic in any respect, but four loosely linked tales (plus an epilogue that's almost as long as the others), that on some level make this movie ideal for DVD viewing over the course of a couple of evenings.

The film opens with a sequence of shocking cruelty—three men in the Sicilian countryside take a male bird from its nest as it protects the unhatched eggs of its mate, and simply for sport, the men start pelting the bird with the eggs, an act of senseless and stupid barbarism. One cooler head prevails (though not after all the eggs have been crushed), and the bird is let go, though belled—his appearance and the ringing of his bell signal to us that we're moving from one story to the next. In the first, The Other Son, we meet Maria Grazia, an illiterate peasant woman with two sons who have emigrated to America—she thinks that she's been dictating letters to her boys, but her supposed scribe, a local woman, simply sits and listens and dashes of pages of inexplicable doodles. This explains Maria Grazia's bitterness over not having received any replies, but not to her near-renunciation of her remaining boy, who, we learn in flashback, is the product of the raping and pillaging of the village years ago. In Moonsickness, a marital horror movie morphs into an unlikely love triangle, as new husband Batà brings his wife of some three weeks, Sidora, back to his village. A full moon approaches, and it's doing some hinky things to Sidora's new husband, raising the prospect that she may in fact be married to a werewolf. It's enough to send her looking for consolation from her husband's best friend, where, inevitably, she finds more than merely comforting words.

The Jar may be the most broadly comic of the pieces, and the most class-conscious. Don Lollo, the largest local landowner, wants to take advantage of this season's bumper crop of olives, and orders a ceramic vase twice his own size to hold all the fruits of the harvest. He's thrilled when it arrives, and crestfallen when it cracks—he loves his jar more than anything or anyone, and finds salvation in the local artisan who promises to repair it. All the pieces are put back together, but with one small—okay, not so small—problem: the craftsman has repaired the thing from the inside, and now he cannot get out. And in Requiem, the class issues are almost as present, but are hashed out much more in earnest, pitting respect for the dead against inflation in the real estate market. A local gentleman no longer wants the common folk burying their dead on his land, so he essentially prices them out of the local cemetery, leading to a morbid and populist uprising, and asking how best to honor and recall the memories of our forebears.

The epilogue of the piece, Dialogue with the Mother, shows us Pirandello himself, now the cultured man of the city, returning to the countryside, reminiscing about Mama, telling the story that we never quite perfected on paper. In many respects it's a fitting coda, though you also start to think that it's a little too on the nose, and by pushing out the running time and showing us the writer, it may detract from some of the enchantment of the tales we've just seen. By this time you'll surely have made up your mind about the movie, though, so if you're still hanging with it, it's a nice little cherry on the sundae.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A pretty dull transfer; the Sicilian landscape can be at once severe and beautiful, though it's frequently rendered on this DVD as blotchy and gray, which is unfortunate.

Image Transfer Grade: C

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Italianno

Audio Transfer Review: A good amount of ambient noise on the stereo track, though the sort of thing you're unlikely to notice much if your Italian isn't excellent.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. accompanying booklet
Extras Review: Indiana University Professor Emeritus Peter Bondanella provides a thoughtful though brief essay; that's the only extra, though it's also worth noting that the copy on the back of the DVD case understates the running time of the movie by almost an hour and a half.

Extras Grade: D+

Final Comments

A worthy rendering of some of the stories of Lugi Pirandello, but long enough to test the patience and good nature of those not completely enchanted by the tales and the filmmaking.

Jon Danziger 2008-04-22