Tuesday, December 13, 2016

1991 Winner, Mediterraneo

Director:  Gabriele Salvatores
Distributed by:  Miramax Films

Released:  January 1991

Country:  Italy

When I was 12 or so, in the late 70’s, I won First Prize in a local archery contest.  It was a summer day-camp thing, and I represented my school camp in the contest, facing all opposition from the several other school camps in the area.  As reward, they gave me a gift certificate for a sundae at Dairy Queen.  Going into the contest, I was skeptical I would do very well—I knew how to hold the bow and sometimes was even able to hit the target.  But surprisingly, I was able to bring home The Banana Split because when it came time for the big match, it turned out the only other competitor was an 8-year-old kid who had never tried archery before.  I beat him so bad I bet he went home crying for his mommy.  

I haven’t seen any of the other entries for Best Foreign Film in 1991, but my guess is they were not unlike that 8-year-old boy.  Because the winner, Mediterrano, is about as good a movie as I was an archer.

The Italian sailors.  They're zany screw ups.
The film is about a group of screw-up Italian sailors during early World War II.  Their ship gets sunk and they end up on a Greek island that is seemingly abandoned.  They lose radio contact and are stuck in this beautiful little town in the Mediterranean Sea.  The guys search the island and gradually find that the town is not at all abandoned after all, but with most of the men of fighting age off to war, the the residents had all just been hiding out.  The sailors aren’t really sure what more they can do but hang tight and wait for help. 
Unlike Gilligan’s group or Tom Hanks in Castaway, the Italian sailors don’t see the urgency of getting rescued.  The townspeople are welcoming, and after a while, most of the Italians like the idea of just staying put rather than fighting again for Mussolini.  There is a church in need of repair, kids that need soccer coaches, and most importantly, pretty single women needing attention, including a prostitute with a heart of gold.  The question is, what will they do when they learn Italy is no longer fighting the Allies?  Will they stay or go back to the land where they belong?
War or sex-starved Greek girls:  Which will they choose?

Mediterreano is technically an anti-war film, pointing to the fact that sitting around having Greek food and Greek women is a whole hell of a lot more fun than shooting at people and getting shot at.  Profound stuff.  The characters were supposed to be comical/zany, I suppose, but I found them all to be a bore.  The movie ends with an unnecessary flash forward to see what our chums are up to many years later, but by that time, I was completely uninterested in them.  If the movie was trying to make some point about the futility of war, it missed the mark way worse than my 8-year-old archery opponent did.

The Title:  The Italians took the word “Mediterranean,” as in the Mediterranean Sea, and Italian-ized it by taking the “an” off and adding an “o” at the end.  Did you need me to tell you that?

The prettiest girl on Tom Hanks' island
The Culture: Perhaps the one positive thing about this movie is the attractiveness of rural Greek life.  The scenery and the thought of doing nothing on a Greek island doesn’t seem too shabby.

Agenda Danger:  This one fails if it has an agenda.  Obviously, the Italians at the beginning of the war were the bad guys, so them taking a few years of the war off seems like a plus.

Best Picture that year:  Silence of the Lambs

Rating:  Skip this movie and go have yourself a banana split.

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