22 April 1999 | tenco
Pioneering Italian Cinema
1860 is a minor masterpiece, and it exerted a fundamental influence on Italian made epic films that came afterwards: Visconti's Senso, Bertolucci's similarly titled 1900, even Sergio Leone's westerns, all owe something to director Blasetti's feel for sweeping popular spectacle somewhat underscored and undercut by irony and melancholy ambivalence. The story charts the desperate attempt of a Sicilian partisan to reach Garibaldi's headquarters in Northern Italy, and to petition the great revolutionary to rescue his besieged land. Along the way, the peasant hero encounters a full spectrum of Italian regional types from all social strata, and holding political opinions of every stripe. A long scene on board a train forces many such folk into close proximity, and is memorable for its humor, and densely packed sociological observation: this uneasy coalition of people who barely speak the same language reminds the viewer of Italy's continuing fragility as a nation. After many picaresque episodes, 1860 resolves with an extended and exciting battle. The style of the film is an interesting, eclectic, and fairly successful mix of techniques learned from the likes of Eisenstein (quick cuts, and odd angles abound), Westerns of the Raoul Walsh variety, All Quiet on the Western Front. 1860 is also one of a very small batch of movies from Thirties Italy that are easily available on tape (in the US), and, though somewhat dated, is definitely worth a look.