Cinema Saved by Theatre
by Camillo De Marco
28/09/2005 - If the difference between film and theatre is only technological – both depict the world – perhaps theatre has won. Due to cinema’s collapse. "Perfection will never lead cinema to abolish theatre but, rather, perhaps to abolish itself," wrote Pirandello in 1929, declaring that cinema’s greatest sin was its desire to compete with theatre. In the center of both lies the actor and, today, cinema continuously returns to the theatre (Mario Martone, Patrice Cherau), to eviscerate it.
Fausto Paravidino, an actor/playwright born in 1976, torn away from the theatre by cinema, has for some time brought cinematographic mechanisms to the stage: “Theatre purists always criticized me for my cinematic writing, now cinema purists will criticize me for my theatrical writing.” Paravidino knows full well, as Guy Debord wrote, that cinema is our society’s central art form, and therefore “justifies” his film Texas by saying: "After theatre, we needed to vent. The primary narrative form that we see from the time we’re born is the moving image. That’s what inspires us. We all think in terms of images and acceleration." And fast-forward and rewind, we say. Going beyond theatre without doing away with it, Paravidino is focused on resolving the dramaturgical and structural problem that theatre created for itself some time ago, and which cinema, on the other hand, has overcome.
His desire for a space beyond theatre is already expressed in the film’s title: Texas. The void that extends infinitely, expanding, widening, spreading out into landscapes that form neo-sites. It is a metaphor for the area of the Piedmont region in which the young director grew up, and that he wanted to depict and celebrate. Paravidino’s places lend consistency to the film’s events and characters, placing them in an anthropological, historical and social context.
"In Italy, like in the Far West, these small residential centers develop entirely around important state roads. Their defining trait is the 50 km speed limit on a straight road, a limitation that cannot be explained to the traveler who considers these places a kind of obstacle in his need to move from one place to another."
In these neo-landscapes move characters, or at least winds, which Paravidino meticulously moves along intersecting lines. Young people who embody the famous Latin palindrome, "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni" (“We wander through the night and are consumed by fire”); 40 year-olds overwhelmed by ideals that proved useless; and, finally, the “old,” those that have not at all been defeated and hold in their hands the economical and political reins. Three generations that ignore one another, who share their spaces without understanding a thing about each other, and who communicate through primordial codes. Codes that relate perfectly to the actors. That Paravidino is an actor/writer is obvious in the interest he has in the dramaturgical structure and the attention he pays each character, a sign that he knows the acting routine.
The film’s literary origins are just as classical and theatrical. The comic and the tragic mix, as Shakespeare and Pinter command (who just yesterday won the Nobel Prize in Literature), while the images owe everything to Edward Hopper.
The narrative structure is – much-abused since Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Sergio Leone and Quentin Tarantino – made of flashbacks and overlaps. A structure that, through the temporal ellipsis of the editing, borders on formal artifice yet creates attention. The films immediately shows us the epilogue, immersing us in a fast montage of images, to then take us back to three different moments of the previous month, three Saturday nights during which these provincial youths create the events leading up to the final drama. Provincial people dreaming the American dream, like the Muscovite and Parisian dreams of the characters of Chekhov, from which the director admits to having borrowed part of the structure. A film in four acts that forsakes the fourth act: the first act announces the last and gives it a framework, the other two tell the story, which is interrupted before the end. Before the gun goes off. The end will demurely remain a private matter between the main characters. But social loneliness remains, as does the incapacity to influence history in an existential challenge in which we participate only to lose.