Our reviewer in Tribeca…Wondrous Boccaccio


Maysa Moncao has been hitting the Tribeca Film Festival. She sends back her review of Spike Leigh’s short film, The Greatest Catch Ever. Check out her Maysa Moncao LinkedIn profile for more and contact details.

The career of the Taviani Brothers has been rising after the award in Cannes last year for Caesar Must Die. As a consequence the media have been curious about their next project. Nevertheless, Wondrous Boccaccio still does not have an international distribution. Let’s check why.

Taviani’s interpretation of Boccaccio’s ‘Decameron’ is minimalist, although the movie takes 121 minutes to finish. How can one adapt 100 short stories in one single movie? Their solution was to choose only five of them!

Set in Florence in the 14th century during the Pest, the stories are told by a bunch of young guys as a means to kill time.

The heavy classical tradition in Italy falls like a pendulum over creative artists in the country in the modern era. It is very rare for one to attempt to inovate without paying due respect to the great of old times.

This process is not exclusive to the movie industry (take, for instance, the dialogue between Fellini and Sorrentino in The Great Beauty) but it occurs also in the visual arts, in opera and in classical music.

In Wondrous Boccaccio, there is a special care in details such as the costumes and the nails, often dirty, as if the characters would be living creatures out of Caravaggio’s paintings. But the care about costume, colours and fabrics is at the service of classicism. Here we see a lot of Pasolini, but without the transcendent style of that poet.

‘Decameron’, the book, is a comedy, “buffa” and vulgar story, written in the moulds of the writers of the renaissance. In Taviani’s film, it is not. The tragedy of the Pest is more highlighted than the comic situations, so it is not possible to laugh naturally anymore.

How can you wonder what is classic? How can you be amazed again with history? How can you take away the weigh of what is sacred and bring to the present the renascentist cult? Zeffirelli tried once, and succeeded. But in Taviani’’s film the tradition is too heavy, with theatrical choreography. The camera follows the characters as if it was in a theatre, not in the movies, and everything that should be big becomes small. There is no shout for freedom and life, and that was what Decameron was all about – the celebration of life under the dark years.

Maysa Moncao







Paolo Taviani became passionate about cinema after seeing Rossellini’s “Paisan”. His first feature was a partnership with his brother, Vittorio Taviani, in 1962. The brothers have continued to work together ever since, with each directing alternative scenes.

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