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E Ridendo L'Uccise
E Ridendo L'Uccise (2005)
e ridendo l'uccise
by a soundtrack collector
(January 9, 2007)
In the early years of the Sixteenth Century, the Estense Court falls prey to strife after the death of Ercole I. His four sons, Alfonso, Ippolito, Giulio and Ferrante almost immediately manifest pent-up hatred and jealousies while Court life brazenly continues with lavish parties attented by sensuous Court ladies. During a Court meeting the situation further degenerates : Ippolito is spurned by the lovely Angiola, who prefers Giulio. The jealous Ippolito gives orders that his brother be ambushed and horribly scarred. Simultaneously Giulio, in collusion with Ferrante, are caught in a failed attempt to kill Alfonso. The guilty brothers, condemned to death in a public execution, are saved at the last minute by an act of clemency and are instead condemned to life imprisonment. Behind the scenes of all these machinations is Moschino, a humble buffoon who at first seems to be in the service of Giulio and then Alfonso, but later begrudgingly plays a role in the overall intrigues of the Court and the brothers. The only two who may suspected Moschino’s true importance to the hidden politics are the courtesan Martina (a peasant for whom Moschino always plays secret benefactor) and Ludovico Ariosto, a court scholar.
The idea that a city, instead of characters and emotions, could be the conceptual focus of a movie gives freshness and originality to one of the few government-funded films that is actually not pretentious and obtuse. Florestano Vancini has always been a filmmaker not given to sterile intellectualism ; he is a humble genius who is alwaays passionate about the infinite possibilities of suggestion and drama that cinema allows. But even before all of that, Vancini understands and can capture the severe melancholy that beautiful Italian cities transmit.
[…] With his “E ridendo l’uccise” he gives such poetic resonance to his beloved city with a story told from an unusual and dynamic point of view : a court buffoon (Manlio Dovi) who works for the powerful but who also witnesses the life of the poor, those who do not make history but rather fall prey to it. Along with the buffoon there is the scholarly Ludovico Ariosto (Fausto Russo Alesi), whose satirical manner betrays compassion and humanity in a world otherwise ruled by strengh alone. Court life is run by ambition, tensions, and revenge. Fate, aided and abetted by the buffoon, allows the young woman Martina (Sabrina Colis) to experience an evolution in her life conditions, from humble peasant to respected coutesan.
[…] From the double point of view the movie presents the story of a Court intrigues involving various protagonists. The most wicked character, the most insidious vilain, is the cruel and vicious Cardinal Ippolito, patron to Ariosto, whose rage en competition with Giulio leave a trail of cruelty, violence, and death. Florestano Vancini paints honestly from this page of his city’s history but never imposes a moral judgement, instead demonstrating events in which there is no good or evil, just a ferocious force that governs men’s actions.
[…] A deep melancholy dominates every scene, coupled with a compassionate attitude and a natural indulgence which drive Vancini’s film toward an epiphany that goes beyond the mere telling of a story. Such effects are unachievable by the mere reading of documents on the story of Ferrara of the historical details of the Renaissance Courts.
[…] The aim of the historian is to understand what motivates men and to decipher the evolution of societies. But for the poet, in this case the director, the task is to create a new mood ; a very risky aim considering the problem of any historical reconstruction which is to revive the feeling of a period.
[…] The impression generated by this extraordinary movie is sublime and true, and as such the film is a gift to all cineastes from one of the last Masters of Italian cinema. Vancini, as if by magic, puts the viewer in the middle of a living city of 1506 ; he captures the full lyrical beauty and contemplative dimensions of a time and place long gone. Without this enchanted film all we would have of those golden days would be that which still stands – the immortal churches and buildings of Ferrara.
[..] Cruelty, violence, misery and pain : life in it’s most raw and extreme essence shakes the scenery of the locations that have been expressed metaphysically and fundamentally by De Chirico and Antonioni. Vancini’s challenge was not to be influenced by these others, but by the story of love and blood that crossed Ferrara. With only images and without words, as in a painting, the task would have been immense. Go to the cinema and experience this special moment from the history of Ferrara ; is is without pomposity, it is not dry and pedantic, it is not jugdemental : you will experience Ferrara history raw, breathing, and alive.
Born in Ferrara, as was Antonioni, Vancini belongs to the generation of fresh talent that irrupted into the Italian cinema during the Golden Age (around 1960). The wonderful “La lungo notte del ‘43” stands as voucher to his great gifts, and “La stagioni del notro amore” features a fabulous story delineating the shattered dreams of a 40 year-old man during the mid-sixties. “Bronte” and “Il delitto Matteotti” are two great successes from the period when Italian cinema got politicised to its most extreme degree.
“E ridendo l’uccise” is a coming back to cultural roots. The plot unfolds in front of a rich background : one both accurate and fanciful (the story was co-written by Massimo Felisatti), and takes us to the early 1500s in Ferrara and to the Estense Court. The death of Duke Ercole I starts a blood feud between the four sons. On one side we see Alfonso, heir to the throne and husband of Lucrezia Borgia, and Alfonso is allied with Cardinal Ippolito. On the other side sit Giulio and Ferrante, who seem trapped in the shadow of those more powerful. We see around these central figures both famous characters and unknown people : for example, the poet Ludovico Ariosto. The principal plot is that of high-level conspiracies, but the real protagonist is a character of humble origins. Moschino, the court buffoon, he is the one who is always ready to change masters or to lower his head in exchange for favours or to save his own life. His person is a subtle intelligence, and one grappling with the constant threat of annihilation because, as he full well understands, his very existence hangs precariously on the whims of his many masters. Around him we see a lot of minor characters, all of those upon which the movie really place its attentions, all of those nameless ones who have been banned from the official chronicles of history. These were the miserable masses, the general population who lives were not valued, those who needed to be available to do anything merely to procure food and shelter.
This movie (the title “E ridendo l’uccise” is a classical reference to the pain and sufferings of a buffoon) can be considered an extremely satisfying essay upon the typical class strife that will find more cultural and political expressions and open voice many decades later. With the help of highly skilled collaborators (cinematography by Maurizio Calvesi, music by Ennio Morricone, and costume design by Burchiarello and Lia Morandini), the director gives us an ambient reconstruction not only sumptuous but very detailed, and dynamically expressive of a cinematic artist’s will and intellect. Ferrara is today a museum-town admired by the entire world, but Vancini reinvigorates it’s image by drawing upon the energies of it’s past, and he does so it intelligence and cultured refinement, while never losing sight of his duty to entertain.
Paolo D’Agostini – LA REPUBLICA
In 1505 Ercole d’Este dies. He is the Duke that gifted Ferrara with a period of great development around 1500. After the Duke’s passing, his son Ippolito is invested with the high post of Cardinal. Ippolito argues with his brother Giulio over the attentions of a woman. Ippolito, trough a clergyman, still permits himself the pleasures of the flesh. Giulio and Ippolito crash in a very violent way, and Ippolito’s minions attack Giulio as he is riding alone in the country. Following Ippolito’s specific instructions they cruelly inflict injury to his brother’s eyes. The new Duke in charge is the oldest brother Alfonso, while the fourth brother, Ferrante, allies with Giulio and the two conspire to get rid of both Alfonso and Ippolito. The conspiracy is discovered and the two brothers are sent to jail and their accomplices executed. The executioner beheads them, and then literally butchers their bodies ; using a huge axe, he splits the corpses in four pieces. The heads are stuck on pikes and are put on parade, while the body pieces are likewise impaled and placed at the four corners of the Estense Castle. This Castle still today adorns the centre of the city.
[…] The story features great artists as Ariosto and Tiziano. Ferrara had one of the most lavish Courts of Europe. Ercole stimulated a great economic and cultural expansion, and his sons continued along the same path of development and cultural growth. The city of Ferrara incorporated Modena and Reggio, being the “parent city” holding all of the most influencial and powerful families (Alfonso’s wife was the infamous Lucrezia Borgia). These families were also held away with the Pope. Behind the Court splendour and Ariosto’s poetry there existed a terrible reality ; wide spread poverty which was, in part, the fault of a greedy and despotic government. This suffering of the common folk is the unfortunate dark side of the Renaissance. The plot of the film is partially based on an extraordinary book : “Giulio d’Este Conspiracy” (Italian title : “La Congiura Di Giulio D’Este”) by Riccardo Bacchelli. Another literary inspiration is that for the character of the buffoon, and this would be the novel “XVIII” by Bandello, which tells the story of the jester Gonnella.
[…] I am proud to have given the world another honest tale in which the powerful are opposed by those they oppress.
“E ridendo l’uccise” is one of the greatest moves by Florestano Vancini. His historic reconstruction is unerring. It was difficult for me to find the musical solution that was suited to both the film’s historical period and the needs of the modern filmgoer. I believe, as too does Vancini, that the finished score services the story in the best way possible, and I feel that this movie should rightly be considered a masterpiece of the Italian-historic genre.
Transcription : Eric Sanglet
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