18 April 1999 | tenco
Obscure Italian fascist escapist entertainment
Aldebaran has been described as lost -or missing- by a number of writers. This extremely obscure Blasetti navy film is probably only known to a few insomniacs in Italy, who have seen it on late night television. That's where Aldebaran belongs. It is enough like a dream in its vaguely compelling but thoroughly senseless way to make one wonder the next morning if it ever really existed. For awhile, we seem to be watching an almost neorealist account of Fascist sailors shipping out for manouevres in the colonies. Documentary techniques prevail, a real ship is used, and many non-actors included. But, then Aldebaran suddenly becomes a rousing desert adventure like Gunga Din, and then, a Grand Hotel style glossy romance. The ship is parked somewhere between Abyssinia, and the isle of Capri, close enough to either that the hero can instantly doff his navy gear, don his tuxedo, and arrive at one or the other romantic subplot...by means of the telegraph, or the ship to shore radio? Blasetti never apologizes or explains, but rushes onward, with a lively Django Reinhardt-like score to help things along. Is Aldebaran speaking a known cinematic language? Did it seem any less strange, then? Blasetti was at the height of his flirtation with Il Duce, when this was made, but the two couldn't see eye to eye over what fascist film entertainment ought to be, and I suspect this movie is a schizoid compromise between the director's vigorous realism, and Mussolini's desire for "white telephone" escapist entertainment. Luckily, Blasetti got over his infatuation, and back to making good movies. This isn't one, but Aldebaran remains weirdly fascinating, and one of a kind.