Lost and Beautiful
Pulcinella, a foolish servant, is sent to present-day Campania to grant the last wish of Tommaso, a simple shepherd.
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★★★½ review by Blake Williams on Letterboxd
Reviewed as part of an overview of Pietro Marcello for Cinema Scope here.
This film is metaphorically obvious and in many ways pretty silly, but its (extremely earnest) emotional centre is steadfast and increasingly tragic, and its animism results in a deeper and more assertive humanism.
★★★½ review by ∆LX on Letterboxd
El mundo avanza a pasos agigantados y lo hace dejando atrás o corrompiendo lo antiguo. Eso es lo que ocurre en Italia, con la caída de lo bello y lo tradicional, y algo que, en el caso del abandonado Castillo de Carditello, el pastor Tommaso Castrone quiere evitar. Bella y perdida es el testimonio de cómo algunos se dejan la vida por mantener todo aquello que merece la pena conservar, pero por desgracia esto se convierte en literal tras la muerte de Castrone durante el rodaje, convirtiendo al filme en su epílogo y homenaje. Semejante evento supone un punto de inflexión para las intenciones del director Pietro Marcello, quien acaba decidiendo dar la vuelta a su cinta y mezclar la realidad y la ficción con el uso de elementos fantásticos. Así acaba dando voz y convirtiendo en protagonista de su obra a la cría de búfalo que Tommaso estaba cuidando, con el objetivo de que la historia de su amo se mantenga viva y no quede en el olvido. Esto lo complementa a través del uso de la cultura italiana con la figura de Pulcinella, personaje típico de la commedia dell’arte, en toda una declaración de las intenciones culturalmente conservadoras de Marcello.
Una vez reunidos, Sarchiapone (el nombre del búfalo) y Pulcinella emprenden un viaje lleno de escenas de cotidianidad rural, en un intento de enseñar la Italia bella y perdida, y estableciendo el pasado como un tiempo mejor y más puro que el presente. A través de estas imágenes se reflexiona sobre la relación del hombre con la naturaleza, el efecto del control absoluto que aspira tener sobre su entorno y cómo acaba siendo incapaz de conservar lo especial, hecho representado tanto en los escenarios naturales como, en última estancia, en el destino final de Sarchiapone. Una muestra del egocentrismo de la humanidad hacia todo lo que le rodea. Pero a pesar de esta visión negativa, el mensaje que queda es el de amor a la vida y respeto hacia lo bello. Una agradable oda a lo tradicional que también aparece en la estética, explicitándose con los bordes redondeados que aparecen como consecuencia de estar rodada en cinta de 16 mm y que trae frente a nuestros ojos una apariencia antigua que tiene mucho encanto.
★★★★½ review by Connor Denney on Letterboxd
It only takes a few moments to realize that the opening shot of Lost and Beautiful is filmed from the point of view of a buffalo, the camera ostensibly tethered to the animal's head and thus completely under the control of a wild animal. Its jerky, faltering movements betray a confusion about what is happening and why men are forcing it to move from its current position, and the sound design permits the creature's heavy breathing—almost sounding, even in a makeshift theatre, as if it were coming from right behind the spectator—to reinforce this point. More importantly, by removing any authorial control over the shot and allowing the images to be created by an organism that could hardly know that he was responsible for the creation of a feature film, Lost and Beautiful allows true randomness to step in and control the film, albeit for a couple minutes at most.
It goes without saying that this is no wholly original feat: films ranging from Back and Forth to Paranormal Activity 3 have experimented with taking the camera away from the humans. But with nothing programmable in the buffalo's movements, this is not a robotic, predictable course that can easily be worked around (to take away nothing from what might be the greatest scene in Paranormal Activity 3, itself a great film). It is true randomness, the buffalo's walk through the room spurred by his handlers but his last-minute pause and sudden head turn to gaze at another buffalo shortly before he reaches the exit surely impossible to choreograph.
As with all documentary images, it would be foolish to claim with certainty that this randomness was not skillfully manufactured and even that it was not merely a simulated buffalo wielding the camera, but the exact mechanics matter not when the implication of freedom from human control is so manifest. This freedom comes to be the film's chief subject as Lost and Beautiful follows this buffalo, Sarchiapone, through multiple owners and handlers and multiple stages of life. It is rather foregone that the freedom experienced by Sarchiapone during his time with Pulcinella is destined to be temporary, as only Pulcinella is as attentive to his companion to be able to hear him speak and to be as attuned to his wishes. We are made to understand this through successfully integrated voiceover and a meandering narrative structure that at times feel as if the film hardly knows what direction it will go in next, its plot points feeling more nebular and nodal than linear. Similarly, experiential shots from Sarchiapone’s perspective are rather attuned to space and distance, as when the buffalo is tied up after having been stolen from Pulcinella. The vastness of his diegesis is augmented most when he loses access to it, and the starkness of the lighting in this moment is a canny use of foreshadowing for the film’s conclusion.
When Sarchiapone is ultimately taken back into captivity after Pulcinella loses his ability to communicate with his friend, it might be easy to take the animal cruelty lesson at face value and read Lost and Beautiful as a boilerplate morality story. This is not to say that it cannot—or even that it should not—be taken at face value: there is nothing wrong with its bared, honest plaintiveness. But the harrowing desperation with which Sarchiapone resists being forced into a trailer in the film’s final moments and the transcendence of an extreme close-up on a single tear under his eye are images that have stuck with me, despite (and indeed, because of) whatever melodramatic impulses drove them. Something about the raw uncontrollability of the buffalo juxtaposed with the animal’s clearly manipulated emotional appearance speaks to the nobility and purity of nature. Even if these final touches might seem heavy-handed compared to the rest of the film, it is here that Lost and Beautiful most understands humanity’s relationship with its fellow species, and these moments are masterful finishing touches on a film that somehow manages to be both sobering and heart-wrenching.
★★★★½ review by Paco Casado on Letterboxd
Vivimos una época excepcional donde, casi sin darnos cuenta, el cine está tomando, más bien recuperando, unos caminos de fusión entre realidad y ficción realmente notables. En este sentido, el realizador italiano Pietro Marcello ha dado buena muestra de ser uno de los nombres a tener en cuenta, a tenor de lo visto en Filmadrid donde se ofreció una retrospectiva de su trabajo. Además, este mismo fin de semana se estrena la que es ya su gran obra, Bella y perdida, película que obtuvo dos menciones en el pasado Festival de Locarno, además de numerosos reconocimientos internacionales.
★★★★ review by lgauge on Letterboxd
A beautiful enigma. Part documentary, part grown up fairy tale, this is a film about the decay of old culture and old ways. More than that, it is about the people who are the caretakers and inhabitants of this old world and how to they live their life under the threat of its destruction. While mixing in documentary elements through both old and contemporary footage, most of the film concerns a sentient buffalo and his immortal travel companion, the Pulcinella, making their way through the Italian countryside. Beautifully shot on film and presented in a 1.66 aspect ratio, the film is often very inviting visually. However, I have to say that a lot of what it's trying to say was lost on me. This is both due to a lack of historical and cultural context on my part and the film's enigmatic presentation of its "narrative" and the at times opaque dialogue. In many ways the film is more a string of observations and can at least in part be called stream of consciousness. Repeat viewings are sure to reveal more of this film's mysteries. An interesting example of a different kind of contemporary cinema.
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