Italian Film Festival

Wondrous Boccaccio

Info: Taviani, Italy, 2015, 120 mins, DCP

Language: In Italian with English subtitles

Director: Paolo & Vittorio Taviani

Cast: Lello Arena, Paola Cortellesi, Carolina Crescentini


  • Tuesday January 12, 2016 - 8:20 pm

Given centuries of licentious interest in Boccaccio’s Decameron, a new cinema version without sex may seem surprising, but desire, delight and the beauty of youth are everywhere here. A tapestry of colour and the supreme natural beauty of the medieval Italian countryside, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s resplendent work, set in 1348, features 10 young comely Florentines who hide from the plague in a country villa. To pass the time, they tell stories “that seem to vibrate with erotic passions inflamed by the presence of death.” Richard Brody, New Yorker

The stories are set variously in Modena, Florence, Salerno and Certaldo, and in the Tuscan countryside. “[Boccaccio’s pastoral] seems like the perfect material for the two Italian brothers, who have been making films together since the 1960s, [since] it is the crucial plurality of authorship that lies at its core… In their account, the Taviani brothers choose to paint their story not black, but myriad different colours, reminiscing on the Renaissance paintings of Sandro Botticelli as he portrayed scenes from The Decameron, or those of Giotto and Masaccio, whom the two directors reveal as being sources of inspiration… The colours turn brighter as the youngsters take off a layer of dark clothes at the country house… for their first story: that of Catalina, a woman suffering from the plague and left to die by her husband, who is phantasmagorically resurrected by the love of another. The second story is more buoyant: a fool turns vicious when he receives the power of invisibility – or so he thinks. The third and tragic story is that of the love between Ghismunda and Guiscardo, which is inappropriate owing to their differing castes. As demanded by the style of Boccaccio, the fourth story lacks neither romance nor disobedience to the church when the sexuality of the beautiful nun Isabetta is awakened. Finally, the fifth story revolves around Federigo’s devotion to Giovanna, which is only reciprocated after both have lost what is dear to them.”—Sabine Kues,Cineuropa