Cannes FIlm Festival Focus: Our Review of ‘Padre Padrone’ on MUBI

Posted in Mubi by - May 24, 2023
Cannes FIlm Festival Focus: Our Review of ‘Padre Padrone’ on MUBI

Young Gavino Ledda (Fabrizio Forte) is getting lessons from his unnamed father (Omero Antonutti). That’s the least that the man can do after pulling his boy out of school to work at his farm. Young Gavino, in Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s cinematic adapation of the real Gavino Ledda’s autobiography, is going to learn things on his own. He’s going to learn his new normal. That new normal includes the endemic abuse tha fathers outside his farming community in Sardinia pass on to their sons.

Young Gavino also learns what starnge things many boys and men do with their urges. As the boys in his community turn into men, they try to escape. However, that’s a road that isn’t so straightfoward in his life as an adult (Saverio Marconi). He tries to emigrate to Germany, his father takes him to military school. But when he returns, will that return finally be on his own terms?

Gavino’s father’s pecularities fit in with the world that Padre Padrone¬†paints. There’s a lot of interior voiceover monologue that viewers can hear from the human and the occassional animal characters, both species talking to each other. Subtitles express what characters think, even through musical interludes or silence. There are moments where the acting is over the top, fitting for male melodrama.

Other things, however, don’t work 100%, like the esoterica of the farming business which is interesting to Gavino’s father and gives him deminsion. However, there are limits to how that comes across to regular viewers. There are also a few things that the film doesn’t explain properly, like sure, families grow. But the film starts out with the two of them and then other close family members seem like they appear out of nowhere but act like they’ve been in the film forever.

Padre Padrone‘s viewers can see some of the things here that are part of the coming of age genre that other directors still use today. Although, its treatment of Sardinia make it mostly of its time. It displays a lot of those regional ideas as Gavino goes to military school. There, his superiors and peers pressure him to learn real Italian and even Latin. After getting a taste of glottology, his father cuts him off and makes him work the farm.

While they’re both in the fields, Gavino corrects his father’s Sardinian to tell him the proper Italian word for ‘thick’. This obviously displays the kind of binaries that are dated today. A lot of the old masters and film critics who reviewed this when it came out at Cannes were nicer to it that modern critics. But it’s good to see a film taking big swings and representing its own values.

Watch Padre Padrone on MUBI.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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