Review: Purple Sea DVD

STUDIO: Strand | DIRECTOR: Donatella Maiorca | CAST: Ennio Fantastichini, Isabella Ragonese, Valeria Solarino, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Giselda Volodi
RELEASE DATE: 2/22/11 | PRICE: DVD $24.99
SPECS: NR | 105 min. | Foreign language drama | widescreen | stereo | English with Italian subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

Purple Sea movie scene

Isabella Ragonese (top) loves Valeria Solarino in Purple Sea.

Strand Releasing presents 2009’s Purple Sea (Viola di Mare), written and directed by Donatella Maiorca (Viol@), a fascinating film study of gender identity and proscribed love set in 19th century Sicily. The movie is adapted from the novel Minchia di Re by Giacomo Pilati, which is itself based on a true story.

When Angela (Valeria Solarino, Secret Journey) is born, her father (Ennio Fantastichini, The Right Thing) is enraged that she’s not a son and emotionally rejects her. When, as a young girl, she tomboyishly smokes cigarettes, her father is enraged and beats her. When she grows up and refuses to marry because she’s in love with another woman (Isabella Ragonese, Ten Winters), her father (you guessed it) is enraged and locks her in a cellar. Finally, Angela’s tormented mother (Giselda Volodi, Miracle at St. Anna) hits on a solution: Pretend that when Angela was born, they failed to notice she was really a boy (these things happen!) and let her live her life as a man.

What sounds like the makings of a be-wigged farce is actually mounted by writer/director Maiorca as a Neorealist film, reminiscent of La Terra Trema-era Luchino Visconti: Witness the Sicilian workers in a seaside village, toiling away in quarries to support a distant Baron (and wearing nothing but skimpy loin cloths — another homage to Visconti!). And it’s all played with melodramatics worthy of a Mascagni opera. That it works — and it works beautifully! — is a tribute to Italian community and passion.

Feminists and same-sex marriage advocates might promote Purple Sea for political agendas. Don’t let that scare you off a great yarn, well-served. And on a much more senses-stirring level, the film also contains plenty of hot scenes of naked woman and men. Ah, Italian artistry — setting out to make a statement and wanting to please as many people as possible along the way!


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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.