Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mediterraneo Turns 25

Make Love, Not War becomes the mission statement for a group of marooned Italian soldiers in Mediterraneo, Gabriele Salvatores’ Foreign Film Oscar winner from 1991. Set during the early days of WWII, Mediterraneo is the story Lt. Montini (Claudio Bigagli) and his band of misfits who are dispatched to a remote island in the Aegean Sea to set up an observation post. But instead of Allied aircraft, the distracted soldiers only have eyes for the island’s fetching populace of lonely young women; their young men having been kidnapped and pressed into service by the Germans. Further complications arise when the soldiers encounter a Turkish con man (Alessandro Vivarelli) who, after getting our heroes massively stoned on hashish, makes off with their guns, radios and even their patrol boat.

Without their military equipment, and with no way to contact their commander, the Italians make the entirely logical decision to relax and enjoy the sunshine while they wait to be rescued. As the time stretches into weeks and months, their days become filled with impromptu soccer matches, clambakes and frequent visits to Vassilissa (Vana Barba), a local prostitute with the proverbial heart of gold. But for naive farm boy Pvt. Farina (Giuseppe Cederna), Vassilisa’s charms are more than physical, and he soon finds himself falling in love with the dark haired beauty. Farina makes a fateful decision that will alter the rest of his young life, giving him both great joy and deep sadness in the years to come.

Watching Mediterraneo is a bit like going on a vacation. Its relaxed tempos and earthy pleasures instill the viewer with a renewed joy of life, and may have you seriously considering a trip to the sunny islands of Greece. Unfortunately, this sexy and amusing pastoral is in dire need of a modern makeover. The DVD edition from Netflix looks every bit its age and appears to have been made from a print that was less than pristine. The film’s white sand beaches and crystal blue waters make it a natural for a hi-def restoration. If you’re out there Criterion, I’ve got a job for you.

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