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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Blogging the Hulu Plus Criterion Collection: The Age of the Medici Parts 1, 2 and 3

Age of the Medici Parts 1, 2 and 3

UPDATE: Last post I neglected to say whether Adventures of Zatoichi is a good template for the beginning screenwriter or director. I wish more directors of modern day action films took as much care with their product as did the makers of Zatoichi. Today a series wears out its welcome after the third installment. The story is a little too simple to really be a good template but it is good to study the ways they added some twists to the plot and made it more personal. Now on to the next installment.

The Age of the Medici was made in the 1970s for Italian television by Roberto Rosellini. It is a very interesting project. Whether one finds it entertaining or enlightening is a bit of a tricky question. There is some value to be gleaned from this project but it takes the proper mindset. Unlike a number of films on this list that can be enjoyed by almost anyone.

The story is told in three chapters. The first two follow Cosimo de Medici from his exile to his his mastery over Florence during the Italian Renaissance. The third chapter is devoted to Leon Battista Alberti who becomes one of the leading thinkers of the age thanks in part to Cosimo's patronage. The production values are beautiful. This is a gorgeous film to look at. There are some special effects that show their age but there are several shots that are simply beautiful. The acting is another matter. The story is very talky and the actors don't really perform the material so much as recite it. Like 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her this forces the audience to focus on what's being said. And what's being discussed is interesting. It does reveal a world that is expanding its mental horizons. It's a nice change of pace from the blood and angst style of documentary of the History Channel. History can be made without a huge pile of bodies.

Even though there is plenty of dramatic material there isn't a lot of drama because of the way it is performed. There is political intrigue, betrayals, assassinations, but it is all delivered in the same restrained manner. While I can appreciate what Rossellini was trying to do it's not something I really respond to. I really miss the Rossellini of Open City.

That said there are some sequences that really worked. There's a scene where an assassin kills a weaver. It's done in one continuous shot. The camera is far away so the large Renaissance era house dominates the frame. The killing plays out largely hidden from view. The image is lovely yet ominous.

As a template it has plenty of good cinematography but as a screenplay it has too many faults. Unfortunately I've read a number of historical scripts lately that look like they used this movie as a paradigm. Only Rossellini could have produced something this talky and not have it torn to pieces.

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