Proposta in quattro parti (Proposition in Four Parts). 1985. Italy. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet. In English, German, Italian; English subtitles. 41 min.
D. W. Griffith’s 1909 short film A Corner in Wheat, a Biblical tale of avarice, divine retribution, and the prolonged suffering of the masses, is the prelude to this political film essay. Straub-Huillet offer a dialectical montage of cause (capitalist greed) and effect (the poverty of the farmer and the urban underclass), and draw from excerpts of their earlier work: Moses und Aaron, Fortini/Cani, and From the Cloud to the Resistance.
Il Ritorno del figlio prodigo/Umiliati (The Return of the Prodigal Son/Humiliated). 2001–03. Italy/France/Germany. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet. Based on Women of Messina, by Elio Vittorini. With Rosalba Curatola, Aldo Fruttuosi, Romano Guelfi. 35mm. In Italian; English subtitles. 64 min.
Straub and Huillet take as their inspiration the 1949 novel Women of Messina by the Sicilian writer Elio Vittorini, whose courageous wartime work in the underground Communist resistance press led to his imprisonment by the Fascists. These twinned films are a companion piece to Sicilia! [screening on May 28 and 30]. They center on a community of peasants and workers, adrift in liberated Italy, who establish a cooperative in a battle-ravaged mountain village. The community then must stand its ground against the coercions of the capitalist state, which takes the form of three argumentative—and armed—hunters. The utopian ideal of a Popular Front—myriad individual voices ringing out as one—seems to be no match for an idea of progress measured in profiteering and private property, as if one can own the songs of birds and the rustling wind.
Dolando. 2002. Italy/France/Germany. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet. With Dolando Bernardini. In Italian; English subtitles. 7 min.
At the end of filming Umiliati, Straub and Huillet gave thanks to the cast and crew in a graceful way: by inviting Dolando Bernardini to sing several stanzas from Torquato Tasso’s 16th-century epic poem Jerusalem Delivered.