Taviani, Paolo and Vittorio

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TAVIANI, Paolo and Vittorio

Nationality: Italian. Born: Paolo born in San Miniato, Pisa, 8 November 1931; Vittorio born in San Miniato, Pisa, 20 September 1929. Education: University of Pisa, Paolo in liberal arts, Vittorio in law. Career: With Valentino Orsini, ran cine-club at Pisa, 1950; with Cesare Zavattini, directed short on Nazi massacre at San Miniato; together and in collaboration with Orsini, made series of short documentaries, 1954–59; worked with Joris Ivens, Roberto Rossellini, and others, early 1960s; with Orsini, directed first feature, A Man for Burning, 1962. Awards: Best Film and International Critics Prize, Cannes Festival, for Padre padrone, 1977; Special Jury Prize, Cannes Festival, and Best director Award (shared), National Society of Film Critics, for La notte di San Lorenzo, 1982.

Films as Directors:

(documentary shorts, sometimes in collaboration with Valentino Orsini)


San Miniato, luglio '44


Voltera, comune medievale


Curtatone e Montanara; Carlo Pisacane; Ville dellaBrianza; Lavatori della pietra; Pittori in città; I Pazzi delladomenica; Moravia; Carbunara


Episode of L'Italia non è un paesa povero



Un uomo da bruciare (A Man for Burning) (co-d, co-sc)


I fuorilegge del matrimonio (co-d, co-sc)


Sovversivi (+ sc, + Vittorio in role)


Sotto il segno dello scorpione (Under the Sign of Scorpio) (+ sc)


San Michele aveva un gallo (+ sc)


Allonsanfan (+ sc)


Padre padrone (Father Master) (+ sc)


Il prato (The Meadow) (+ sc)


La notte di San Lorenzo (+ sc)


The Night of the Shooting Stars (+ sc)




Good Morning Babilonia (Good Morning Babylon)


Il Sole anche di notte (Night Sun) (+ co-sc)


Fiorile (+ co-sc)


Le Affinità elettive (The Elective Affinities) (+ co-sc)


Tu ridi (You Laugh) (+ co-sc)


By the TAVIANIS: books—

San Michele aveva un gallo/Allonsafan, Cappelli, 1974.

Good Morning Babylon, with Tonino Guerra, London, 1987.

By the TAVIANIS: articles—

Interview with G. Mingrone and others, in Filmcritica (Rome), January 1972.

"Très longue rencontre avec Paolo et Vittorio Taviani," with J. A. Gili, in Ecran (Paris), July/August 1975.

"The Brothers Taviani," an interview with V. Glaessner, in CinemaPapers (Melbourne), January 1978.

Interview with Gary Crowdus, in Cineaste (New York), vol. 12, no. 3, 1983.

"Vittorio Taviani: An Interview," with P. Brunette, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Spring 1983.

Interview with F. Accialini and L. Coluccelli, in Cineforum (Bergamo), January 1985.

Interview with Robert Katz, in American Film (Washington D.C.), June 1987.

Interview with J.A. Gili, in Positif (Paris), June 1987.

"En promenad vid Villa Pamphili," in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 30, no. 2/3, 1988.

Interview, in Cinema (Paris), June 1990.

Taviani, Paolo and Vittorio, "Fou rire," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1991 (supplement).

Interview, in Positif (Paris), June 1993.

"Your Own Reality: An Interview with Paolo and Vittorio Taviani," with David Ehrenstein, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1994.

On the TAVIANIS: books—

Aristarco, Guido, Sotto il segno dello Scorpione: Il cinema dei fratelliTaviani: con un saggio sul film di Valentino Orsini I dannati dellaterra, Messina, Florence, 1977.

Camerino, Vincenzo, Dialettica dell'utopia: Il cinema di Paoloe Vittorio Taviani, Manduria, 1978.

Accialini, Fulvio, Paolo e Vittorio Taviani, Florence, 1979.

Ferrucci, Riccardo, editor, La bottega Taviani: Un viaggio nel cinemadi San Miniato a Hollywood, Florence, 1987.

Orto, Nuccio, La notte dei desideri: Il cinema dei fratelli Taviani, Palermo, 1987.

De Santi, Pier Marco, I film di Paolo e Vittorio Taviani, Rome, 1988.

Ferrucci, Riccardo, editor, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani: Poetry of theItalian Landscape, Rome, 1996.

On the TAVIANIS: articles—

Aristarco, Guido, "Dall'utile attraverso il vero verso il bello," in Cinema Nuovo (Turin), September/October 1974.

Zambetti, S., editor, "Speciale Taviani," in Cineforum (Bergamo), October 1974.

Mitchell, T., "Toward Utopia, by Way of Research, Detachment, and Involvement," in Sight and Sound (London), no. 3, 1979.

Ranvaud, Don, "A Tuscan Romance," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), December 1982.

Yakir, Dan, "The Tavianis," in Film Comment (New York), March/April 1983.

Quart, Leonard, "A Second Look," in Cineaste (New York), vol. 16, no. 1/2, 1987/1988.

Timm, M., article in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 30, no. 1, 1988.

Romney, Jonathan, "Family Tussles Tuscan-Style," New Statesman& Society, 24 March 1995.

Gardies, R., "Les sentiers interieurs," in Semiotica, no. 1–2, 1996.

* * *

Since the early 1960s, when they realized that fiction feature films were going to be their main interest, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have written scenarios and scripts, designed settings, developed a filmmaking style and philosophy, directed a dozen features, and patiently explained their methods and concepts to many interviewers and audiences in Italy and abroad.

Although influenced to some extent by neorealism—such as the films of Rossellini and De Santis, characterized by on-location settings, natural lighting, authentic environmental sounds, non-professional actors, and an emphasis on "the people" as protagonists—the Tavianis want reviewers to see their films as invented and staged, as interpretations of history rather than as documentaries. They draw upon their early interests and background—as youngsters they saw musicals and concerts but not movies—and use artistic and technical means and methods similar to those utilized in theater and opera. Their films in which music is part of plot and theme reveal an inventory of flutes, accordions, record players, radios, human singing voices, folk tunes, opera, and oratorio (mostly Italian but also German), and even "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

The photography in their films takes the eye back to the horizon or across a huge field, far along a road or deep into the front of a church or schoolroom. Even casual viewers must realize the frequent alternation of intense close-ups and long shots that never cease to remind one of locale. In addition, thoughts and dreams are often given visual expression: A picture of a girl and her brother studying on a couch follows her interior monologue about missing the long yellow couch in her living room (La notte di San Lorenzo); a prisoner in solitary confinement for ten years creates a world of sound and sight expressed on the screen (San Michele aveva un gallo).

With theatrical form and technique serving as the framework for their political cinema, and complex, individualistic characters as protagonists, the Tavianis are as concerned with corruption, abuse of power, poverty, and suffering as were the neorealists and their successors. Struck by the autobiography of Gavino Ledda, which became their well-received Padre Padrone, they investigate the abuse of power by a father, compelled by tradition and his own need to survive to keep his son a slave. Amazingly, the illiterate, virtually mute shepherd boy whom a quirk of fate (army service) rescues from lifetime isolation becomes a professor of linguistics through curiosity, will, and energy. In Un uomo da Bruciare Salvatore, who wants to help Sicilian peasants break the Mafia's hold, is complex, intellectual, and egotistical.

Other themes and topics in Taviani films include divorce, revolution as an ongoing effort interrupted by interludes of other activity, the changing ways of dealing with power and corruption, resistance in war, fascism, and the necessity of communal action for accomplishment. The Tavianis use the past to illuminate the present, show the suffering of opposing sides, and stress the major role of heritage and environment. Their characters ask questions about their lives that lead to positive solutions (and sometimes to failure). The two directors believe in the possibility of an eventual utopia.

In 1987 the Tavianis made their first English-language film, Good Morning Babylon, a poetic, sweetly nostalgic ode to the origins of cinema and the invulnerability of great art. Their scenario chronicles the plight of two Italian-born siblings whose ancestors are craftsmen who for centuries have restored cathedrals. They arrive in America during the 1920s and end up designing sets for D. W. Griffith's Intolerance. This was followed by two works as outstanding as any of their earlier films. Il Sole anche di notte (Night Sun), adapted from Tolstoi's "Father Sergius," is the story of a young man who is deeply troubled by the knowledge that he exists in a world of temptation and hypocrisy. He sees that too many of his fellow humans seek sex and status, and then turn to religion only to ease their guilt. All he wishes is to find inner tranquility, so he becomes a monk—and even cuts off his finger rather than give in to his desires and allow himself to be seduced by a temptress. A sensitive man who only wishes to make the world a better place, Father Sergius only can end up disappointed; he becomes an eternal wanderer, forever seeking the true meaning of his life and existence. Ultimately, the Tavianis are able to elicit a special sensitivity toward the human condition in the film.

Fiorile is linked to Night Sun as an intricate, sardonic tale of tainted innocence. While on his way from Paris to Tuscany to visit his sick, hermit-like father, whom he hasn't seen in a decade, a man discloses to his two young children the story of their ancestry. He commences by telling them of the nefarious means by which their forefathers became rich during the Napoleonic era—and how this wealth became a family curse for future generations. In Fiorile, the Tavianis examine the manner in which ill-gotten affluence will tarnish the soul and only result in misery. While their films are not lacking in political content—they keenly illustrate how greed, cruelty, lust for power, and temptation will wither one's soul—the cinema of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani is one of a simple, but never simplistic, humanism.

—Lillian Schiff, updated by Rob Edelman