XL Popcorn – The Night of the Shooting Stars

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 910/1009Title: La notte di San Lorenzo (The Night of the Shooting Stars)
Director: Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani
Year: 1982
Country: Italy

After a long spate of 2010s films, it is time to open back up again to pretty much any decade that I want to watch. Nice that this would happen as this film marks my entry into the double digits. That’s right, just 99 films to go and I will have completed this list and be free of a challenge that I have had going for 18 years. Now it is time to mop up some movies before heading to the end game of the 18 films I have saved for the end.

La notte di San Lorenzo is a Second World War film unlike any I have seen before. It is set in rural Italy when the Americans were beginning to make their way north, liberating towns as they go. The principle cast are residents of a town that is due to be mostly destroyed by the Germans as a final punishment for daring to resist. These residents do not trust the Germans at their word of not killing them as long as they remain in the cathedral, so escape under the dead of night hoping to find Americans who will safe them.

This is one of those films where you can see how much an effect Fellini had on the world of Italian cinema. The focus is on the people as they try to survive, with a few fantasy sequences and other pieces of heightened emotions in for good measure. It’s all told from the memory of a 6-year-old girl and what she has been told since. From this vantage point, the scene where a fascist is impaled by the spears of a Roman army makes sense.

By remaining profoundly human, La notte di San Lorenzo steers away from a lot of the tropes of a typical war film – instead feeling like a story played out many times over the centuries whenever there is a village set to be razed by interlopers. Beautifully directed in some stunning Italian countryside, this film really was a pleasant surprise.

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