Rehearsal for a Sicilian Tragedy

| January 11, 2013

I was just wondering what happened to John Turturro.  The extremely talented actor went from popping up in a plethora of great character roles to simply disappearing.  This documentary shows Turturro’s journey home to Sicily, where he lived as a child and where he now hopes to train to be a puppeteer.  I have a lot of respect for Turturro’s work primarily with the Coen Brothers (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Barton Fink), and watching this documentary he seems like a decent, likeable guy, but I have to say there is something arrogant about his demeanor.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but he seems to be a little annoyed by everyday occurrences throughout the film.  Could be my imagination, but I get the distinct impression that if he weren’t on camera, he wouldn’t be quite as nice as he appears here.

It’s always interesting to catch a glimpse of another culture, and this documentary being set against the backdrop of the Sicilian day of the dead holiday helps emphasize some interesting themes here about the Sicilian perceptions of death and tragedy.  That being said, it’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly why I found this film so unbelievably boring.

First of all, I find stories (whether fact or fiction) about actors and their craft to be really uninteresting.  There’s nothing at stake for Turturro learning how to be a puppeteer.  His life seems like it would be unaffected by whether or not he masters this particular style of puppet theatre.  I do like the brief glances at the Sicilian puppet theatre community that we get here.  It’s very old fashioned and a wonderful celebration of theatre at its most basic levels.

Unfortunately, we don’t get nearly enough of these performances, or even Turturro’s learning how to operate his puppet.  A lot of the film also revolves around Turturro wandering around Sicily, visiting the houses of his mother and grandparents, but not making it past the front door.  In addition, the film uses a variety of documentary techniques including interviews, stock footage, and old photographs to tell its story.  All of these various angles to the story make the documentary feel like it has no focus, and thus it’s difficult to stay interested in it.  I couldn’t help but tune it out multiple times; returning a few minutes later to realize I wasn’t paying attention.

No special features on the DVD.

Available on DVD from First Run Features on January 11.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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