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Customer Review

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are there still people and places like this?, February 19, 2004
This review is from: Respiro (DVD)
Poking around the internet for reviews of this film the words "inscrutable," "pointless," and "underdeveloped" keep cropping up. Could my taste for film really be that bad? Upon reading the reviews, however, it becomes apparent that most have missed the point of the film.
Respiro is about a fishing village in Lampedusa and probably thousands of other small villages in the world where AN EFFORT TO FEIGN OR SHOW RESPECT (face-saving) goes a hell of a long way.
Pietro is a fisherman who acts like the bad-ass patriarch in public, but is soft as a marshmallow at home. One scene that showed this is when a neighbor demands punishment for Pietro's son's for misconduct, Pietro manhandles the kid then placates the man by asking him to whip the boy. When the man refuses and tells Pietro to discipline the kid himself, a quick and subtle expression hesitation flashes across his face before he belts the boy a few quick ones. This act of deference to the neighbor is immediately accepted with gratitude and almost relief by the plaintiff, and all is settled.
Another humorous scene shows Pietro telling his wife Grazia to take a hike because he is engaged in "man-talk" with a couple of pals. When she leaves we find out the conversation is about Pietro's son winning a train-set at a toy stall.
This sort of phony machismo is also played out in fights the village youth gangs engage in. No one really throws punches but instead everyone rolls around on the ground. This ritualized fighting appears to allow all to let off steam without developing true animosity.
Even the local cops feign machismo by engaging in a not-so-high speed chase of three harmless girls on a Vespa.
Grazia, being manic-depressive, has a hard time with these kind of games and embarrasses others. Not knowing how to deal with her, the village suggest sending her off to an institution to Milan. When the angry Grazia learns of this she hides and is thought to have committed suicide. This elevates her status to that of a saint, and when she is found all are happy not because their "saint" has returned but because all can PRETEND to believe their "saint" has returned--thereby condoning her continued existence in the village.
Respiro is about these kinds of communities where people don't sue or kill each other... What is sought is "Face." This is quite like how dogs relate to each other. Agressive behavior is displayed to elicit submission from the other dog, and as long as everyone follows this rule all is fine. In fact this example shows up in the film where Pietro, who is afraid of the family dog, gets rid of it because he is threatened by it's growls. He feels demeaned because he doesn't command respect from the dog.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 8, 2014 4:21:05 PM PST
John Cullom says:
I haven't even seen this movie, and this is a great review. I'm going to see it now. It's just such a nice break from the: this movie is intentionaly absurd, it's not supposed to have a meaning - laziness that pervades. Thanks for bothering to siphon meaning out and sharing with the rest of us. You keep doing you.
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