May 17, 2022

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In the Mirror of the King of the Crab – Francesco Buell

A bearded man with a bare torso retrieves a half-moon pendant from the bottom of a river or lake. Then, an unusual reversal, we see him from below looking at the necklace. Or rather, the impression is that but after taking everything from the reflection in the water, it is clear that the camera actually resumes not from below but from above. The top, bottom, right and back are shown. The movement of the water provoked by the discovery gradually fades away, and the image, almost of an impressionist painting, becomes more defined and the face of the bearded man finally appears. He’s surly, focused. Then we see him washing the body with water: ensuring its clarity, in this sequence depicted against the light, is of importance.

It’s the beginning, the short preface before the title, of one of the Italian revelations at the last Cannes Film Festival. King Crab, the first work of the brilliant freshness of two young directors, Alessio Rigo de Reggie and Matthew Zubes. Presented at the Quinzaine des réalisateurs where it was a real hit with international audiences and critics and now out of competition at the Turin Film Festival, they debuted in fiction after some popular poetry and historical anthropological documentaries. The cast consists of almost all non-professional actors, but they know well from working with them on previous documentaries. A kind of cinematic society, a mirror of gossip. Their approach to cinema and origins is intriguing, if you consider one of them from an American mother and the other born in Louisiana. Gabriel Seely, who plays the protagonist, is also not an actor but comes from the art world; The exception is Maria Alexandra Lungu who actually worked with Alice Rohrwacher: a prominent face who plays the role of the hero’s muse.

After the title, we go from heat to winter, from the (supposedly) timeless past to the present. An elderly man appears in the foreground and enters a hostel where we see him sharing a lunch with friends. The joyful attitude to the past and distant memory in time, is nourished by historical events that are legends and vice versa. We are in Vejano, a village in Viterbo’s Tuscia. They sing: “The doctor’s son is half insane. He has done justice with fire and wrath.” The song as well as the story relates to a certain Luciano who lived in the late 19th century.

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The son of a wealthy and influential person of those times, he felt completely alien to the prevailing rules of life, to that environment. Bastian discordant fully qualified. In love with a farmer’s daughter, he ends up upsetting the local authorities, the district prince, with his criticism of the volatile harassment the prince causes the community to suffer. “In Vejano there was a famine in those days. There were princes and the poor ”: explain the old hunters, the last preachers of a world to disappear before our eyes (oblivious). Then, after this second almost documentary-like introduction, he begins the novel, the story in the past, divided into two chapters that fall, on the level of space-time, at opposite ends.

It really must be said, since there is a break, a sudden gap in the narrative: about in the middle of the film the story suddenly turns into Spanish and travels to Argentina, to Ushuaia in the Land of Fire: in the “Apocalypse”. But here there is more lack of information than in the first part, and the directors, in spite of their research, had to imagine many things because at a certain moment “the stories no longer speak of this Luciano”, as the old man in the opening still says: “In that At the time there was no television, we were just around the corner telling stories, like Luciano’s.” Another adds: “People say what they know. The only thing is that if it is listed in ten words later, when it is delivered, it becomes fifteen, then fifty, and at last it is a little invented and a little true. Then go find out what is right and what is It’s wrong.”

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This movie admittedly. In stark contrast to the power that oppresses the most vulnerable of men and claims to have only one reason to impose without hearing reasons, an absolute and therefore unquestionable truth, built on contradictions, refutations, and reversals, investigates the origins of the story, the myth, for its meaning within society, when it was still It collects it for a collective experience of knowledge and human connection, for empathy, just like cinema compared to television. It is also a narrative about the relativity of views, about the fact that truth almost belongs to the realm of the unknown. That is why it highlights, but without didactic repetition, the thousands of flows the story takes through oral narration. He goes to the sources of the story, the legend, as if to rediscover its deep meaning in the age of saturation not only with novels as such, which also come from all sides, but from novels that are often excessively uniform and above. All codified. So work on Topoy And adventure or Western allegories, as the two directors declared, here meant to bring them back to the raw dimension of the ancestors, to the basic oral story: surely even the Western stories and piracy in their origins were a thousand oral stories, perhaps with truth at the base but then, because of the undisciplined and multiple additions, It has taken on meaning and directions different from the initial meaning, in part or in whole.

We said back to the source of the novels. After all, the element of water, whether clear or polluted, is a key element here. The water with which you drink, refresh or bathe, or the water that surrounds the land like an island in the middle of the sea, or a lost lake in the Andes that serves as an unattainable legend like the legend of El Dorado that was chased by the Spanish conquistadors.

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Visually grandiose without being licked or rattled and strengthened in the second part, where one contemplates the power of some of Werner Herzog’s masterpieces such as Change God’s wrath (1972) Fitzcarald (1982). In the first part, immersed in the sensual, sweet and sometimes twilight light of our country, we think instead, but without imitation or citing, of countless directors, from Ermanno Olmi to the Taviani brothers, through Vittorio Di Sitta: for his films and perhaps above all for his documentaries which is unforgettable despite its shortness, because it is abstract, anthropological, experimental and poetic.

But in the first part, when Luciano and Lei–with a capital L because it’s about Luciano but all about this girl–walk hand in hand in the country, they stop talking, pictures, for their strength and compositional care, they are pure splendor, pure magic. They draw with many potential references but coexist in a miraculous balance with the most natural and documentary records without subverting them. When the movie is released on DVD or Blu-ray, let the player freeze the image in these sequences: Some images will appear.

The work of opposites meeting and supporting one another is an impossible and romantic love story, despite the fact that the film is permeated with social determinism, which in turn is enveloped by a spiritual and masculine force.

In the end, a film is reflected in the water. And since reflection in water turns things around and destroys their true meaning, or vice versa, it reveals their hidden meaning. King Crab It’s a mirror story. Inverted film in order to better understand the order of things, their true meaning or the “other” meaning. Perhaps, instead of the fortune-telling of myths, it pushes us, figuratively, to (re)find a lost or hidden paradise: purity of soul, inner truth. and love. The only antidote to the insane obsessive quest for power and domination.