Francesco Munzi’s ‘Assalto Al Cielo’ and Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti’s ‘Spira Mirabilis’; two entirely different Venice experiences.
The biggest difference between Assalto Al Cielo and Spira Mirabilis? One, I couldn’t take my eyes off of, and the other I considered walking out of (several times). I didn’t, because I was curious to see if the remaining audience members would “boo” or whistle when it was over (about a quarter of the theater had already cleared out midway through).
As it turns out, audience that stayed for all of Spira Mirabilis (except for me, and I’m guessing other polite movie-goers who don’t like the idea of abandoning a film) applauded the filmmakers, who seemed pleased with the whole thing. I guess I’m just the uncultivated anti-intellectual who watches (and enjoys) Checco Zalone. So be it. For me, watching Spira Mirabilis was an excruciating experience.
It took me way too long to figure out what was going on in that thing (in fact, for about a half an hour I was convinced I’d somehow walked into the wrong movie). What do Native Americans have to do with the manufacturing of steel drums? What do either of them have to do with jellyfish? I won’t be the “spoiler”, in case you want to see for yourself, but I am not recommending this disjointed, puzzling, pretentious documentary; unless, of course, you enjoy that kind of thing.
Francesco Munzi’s Assalto Al Cielo, on the other hand, is everything I want to see in a documentary. Munzi is one of Italy’s best filmmakers today, having auteured the multi-award winning Anime Nere (Black Souls).
Made entirely of archival footage, Assalto al Cielo is a completely engrossing window into Italy’s Anni di Piombo (years of lead), when young Italians idealized a utopian government and country, much as American ones did. What’s the difference between a revolutionary, an anarchist, and a hippie in 1970 Italy? More than I would have guessed, as it turns out.
Frustration over neo-fascism, the Vietnam War, high prices, and unfit working conditions brought the nation to a fever pitch of varying intensity, with some kids occupying their university president’s office, some turning to violence, and some just getting high and “peace-ing out”.
The footage is stunning and at times, hard to watch, with police splitting heads in the street and fascists throwing furniture from windows onto the heads of protesters below, but Munzi isn’t judging any of this. (In fact, he urges us to “stop the projector and discuss” twice during the film).
This one, I recommend. I’m hoping we see Assalto Al Cielo here at US film festivals.