Directed by Eugène Green
The story is one of an architect that has lost his inspiration and goes looking for those motivations that pushed him as a youngster to take up the profession. Inspiring him was the baroque movement and all of its artifices: the Guarini in Turin and the Borromini in Rome. The film’s central story ends up being the love story that develops between architecture, artistic inspiration and feelings.
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★★★★★ review by Arthur Tuoto on Letterboxd
Indiscutivelmente um filme sobre utopias. Seja uma utopia falida, a capitalista e contemporânea, que otimiza todos os seus espaços e edificações buscando unicamente uma funcionalidade, rejeitando uma autenticidade cultural a qualquer custo; seja uma utopia da sabedoria, que se define simplesmente pela etimologia abstrata da palavra: um lugar inalcançável. Quando Alexandre parte em sua viagem com Goffredo, buscando, justamente, se descontaminar da geografia urbana globalizada através da especificidade da arquitetura barroca de Guarini e Borromini, existe uma erudição nessa busca, a ilusão de uma catarse pelo intelecto. Goffredo é um jovem que não tem a sabedoria intelectual, mas preserva em si uma alma utópica por natureza; a maquete em seu quarto nos apresenta a cidade perfeita, onde todas as religiões se encontram, possível apenas na forma de um modelo imaginário. "Eu negligenciei a luz", diz o arquiteto para o jovem, a luz de Alexandre é essa instruída pela sua erudição, pelos caminhos de um espaço físico arquitetônico; a luz de Goffredo é aquela da vela acesa, que protege o seu sono. A revelação do arquiteto se dá justamente ao observar o sono do jovem, Alexandre intui ali uma sabedoria não intelectualizada, um conceito abstrato, invariavelmente de nuance religiosa, resignativo. Uma luz soberana que ao mesmo tempo que é toda a sabedoria, é também nenhuma. Como o próprio Green disse no início da sessão, a "sapienza" do seu título seria o saber para se chegar a sabedoria. Uma luz inalcançavel (a sabedoria total, logo impossível), mas que precisa, a todo momento, ser almejada.
★★★★½ review by Sean Gilman on Letterboxd
Like Green's other films (I watched Toutes les units and Le Pont des Arts in preparation for the fest), it features an unusually declamatory acting style, with a Bressonian minimization of emotion (though notably not as extremely robotic). Also Bressonian is a penchant for introducing scenes and characters with close-ups of their feet, or rather, their shoes. Green apparently is a big fan of shoes (not that there's anything wrong with that). He films his characters' conversations at right angles, a two-shot with them facing each other, perpendicular to the camera, followed by medium close-ups of each actor as they face the camera directly and speak in turn, Green not cutting until they've finished what they have to say. This combination of effects reminds me very much of Manoel de Oliveira, though the artifice is apparently indebted as much to Baroque theatrical technique as any cinematic fore-bearer. Green is said to be an expert in this, and knowing absolutely nothing about the subject myself, I'm in no position to disagree.
La Sapienza concerns itself with a married couple, an architect and a social worker, who seem very depressed and go on vacation in Switzerland. They meet a young brother and sister and become attached to them. The girl has fainting spells ("wasting sickness" perhaps, which should have died out in 1914, we're told), the boy is an aspiring architect. The wife sends the boy with her husband on a tour of Baroque churches, while the two women stay behind and have frequent talks. The man is obsessed with the story of Borromini, a dreamer of an architect who had a more rational-minded rival and came to a bad end. As the film progresses, he tells us their story as he explains it to the young man, while Green lovingly points out the marvels they constructed, gorgeous pans and tilts following the lines of their churches as the reach toward the heavens. Like Voyage to Italy, the film's most obvious reference point, the touch with the past transforms and reinvigorates the middle-aged.
The remarkable thing about the film, aside from the fact that I saw it on a Saturday afternoon, in a sold out auditorium that was 100% into it, laughing at all the right places and genuinely moved, is that it, and Green himself, even exist at all. How wonderful a world is it that provides a space for a weird expatriate-American Francophile, obsessed with Baroque theatre, to make odd little romances about the persistence and continuing relevance of ancient arts and archaic words? Green himself has a role in the film, bigger than the cameos in the other films of his I've seen, where he plays an old man the wife meets on a park bench at night. He explains that he is a refugee, a Chaldean from the Ninevah plain, an ethnic group she believed to be extinct. But no, they are still very much around, though in diminished numbers. A more fitting role for M. Green I cannot imagine.
★★★★ review by joaopedrofaro on Letterboxd
Deve ser, do cinema recente, um dos filmes que mais se satisfaz com as próprias limitações. Tudo que tem de rígido tem de apaixonado, tratando os maneirismos como reverência mesmo. Todo o didatismo dos segmentos nas igrejas (onde a arte é um meio de aproximação divina) soa bem mais como uma celebração do que como uma indulgência erudita vazia, justamente pelo contraste com as sequências de desenvolvimento entre os protagonistas.
Personagens com relações resolvidas, antes de tudo, pelas possibilidades dos meios artísticos e seus enquadramentos limitadores, que Green impõe como verdadeiras chances de engrandecimento pessoal.
★★★★ review by Pierre-Louis Valcourt on Letterboxd
Hard to be a God DCP was broken, so I went to this instead. Meditates on buildings and architecture, only to slowly become its own monument. At times heavy but mostly hilarious enough for most people to enjoy it. The vertical camera movements are great to look at, but I'd like to know more about them (other than it lets us contemplate with the characters, and follows the indications of the man that is almost narrator to the film). Basically this film made me curious more than anything (I need to read about churches and stuff). Explores architectural history to develop character relationships without amping up emotion. These character relationships unfold into young/old present/past passionate/strategic faithful/faithless dreamer/rational dichotomies essentially being woven together—but probably not entirely. I was most absorbed in the discussion scenes (most of the film) where I could observe the camera work. First very symmetric division of character into different shots, then pulling back behind right shoulders, and sometimes showing characters together but mostly with framing that seems locked in a very precise position. Plays with angles to separate characters from each other. Then there's the characters looking directly at the lens, accompanied by the robotic/didactic acting style. Delightfully hypnotizing and moving. Hopefully seeing other Green will help me get more. Was the guy's wife a kangaroo?
★★★★½ review by ButtNugget on Letterboxd
La Sapienza to me contains perhaps some of the most memorable use of the shot/reverse shot since Yasujiro Ozu’s heyday. It’s comprised almost entirely of people speaking directly into the camera and gazing straight into our eyes. It makes for an ambitiously stylish and refreshingly intimate viewing experience. Such filmmaking methods please me to no end. The acting is also unique in an understated, Bressonian sort of way, sometimes leading to humorously awkward moments. Admittedly, I haven’t seen a single Eugene Green movie until now. If this is what the bulk of his work looks like, then I have a lot of catching up to do because this is real interesting stuff. Anyway, La Sapienza is also a visually alluring, travelogue-ish art film with a heavy helping of Baroque architecture and the Mediterranean coastline. Within this majestic backdrop is a contemplative story about the journey to Italy of a French couple who has grown apart throughout the years. There they meet two young siblings who would turn their lives upside down. Through lengthy dialogues about architecture and spirituality, the kids inadvertently help rekindle the couple’s troubled relationship. For all the film’s philosophically charged conversations and talk of finding the “light” in art, this is ultimately quite a simple, deeply moving movie with a warm, life-affirming message in the end.
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