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January 28, 2014

The Sack of Rome

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Fabio Bonzi - 1992
One 7 Movies Region 0 DVD

I should give the folk at One 7 Movies some credit. They come up with movies that I've never heard of, movies that seem to be plucked out of some vault of forgotten European cinema. Also, they must have gotten these movies for chump change, because it's not that cheap to produce DVDs, but they must have figured out that there is an audience out there for whatever they've got.

It's not that The Sack of Rome is a bad film, but, let's face it, are there more than a handful of Americans who even know about the actual events that took place in 1527, or even care? I did some reading about the history which was basically part of a power play by various royal families and their respective armies over the influence Pope Clement had with the balance of power in Europe. German mercenaries also became involved, adding another element of discord as they were largely Lutheran. The sack was a form of payday for the mercenaries, looting gold and jewelry from the Romans. According to the historical overview, the mercenaries left after eight months when there was no more food or anything of value that they could carry with them.

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I'm not sure how much of the film is historically accurate. The main character is a painter favored by the Church, Gabriele da Poppi. Gabriele is certain that as an artist, he will be untouched by the ongoing war. As it turns out, the mercenaries don't care, although one of the royal leaders attempts to protect Gabriele. Bonzi touches on a few interesting ideas such as the relationship art and artists have to politics, and how it may affect them. Also, while Gabriele's art is commissioned depictions of religious subjects, his models are from Rome's lower strata. His live in muse, Gesuina, becomes the mistress to a mercenary who takes over Gabriele's house.

There is a shot of Franco Nero and Vittoria Belvedere, Gabriele and Gesuina, posed like the classic image of Jesus taken from the cross, in the arms of Mary, the image associated with the Pieta. And while Franco Nero is largely a passive character in this film, the shot made me flash back on Nero's most famous role, one that less obviously has a degree of religious inspiration, Django. I was not familiar with Vittoria Belvedere although I have picked up that she does have her devotees. She is lovingly photographed here. One aspect of this film that can not be argued is that it is often beautifully lit, with some effort to make the film resemble 16th century painting. Director Fabio Bonzi's most famous credit is as the Assistant Art Director for Cinema Paradiso. The original Italian title translates as "gold". This was also a coproduction with Russia's Mosfilms, and some of the dubbing to Italian is obvious. I can see how the subject matter would interest an Italian audience. As for a stateside audience, I have to admit that Vittoria Belvedere does look quite cute dressed up as a pageboy.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at January 28, 2014 07:13 AM