John Turturro heads to his ancestral land looking for the essence of the Sicilian character.

Italo-American thesp John Turturro heads to his ancestral land looking for the essence of the Sicilian character, but while “Rehearsal for a Sicilian Tragedy” touches on the island’s unique qualities, the docu, and Turturro himself, are far more interested in local puppeteering traditions than in exploration or analysis. Despite the poetic-sounding title, there’s no sense of a tragedy brewing, and helmer Roman Paska and his editors seem unsure where to focus their attention. Results, plus Turturro’s name, may interest the Travel Channel and similar smallscreen venues.

Interviews with a few well-known locals start promisingly, as they discuss the Sicilian obsession with death. Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi links this morbid penchant with concepts of theatricality and excess, also mentioning the distorted nostalgia of immigrants, but such themes are quickly dropped in favor of Turturro’s real interest, the traditional puppeteers. Even Turturro’s visits to his ancestral places, while occasionally affecting, take a backseat to the marionettes and their foremost practitioner, Mimmo Cuticchio. Oddly, inserted clips from Hugo Fregonese’s “The Wanderers” make Turturro’s desire to shoot a feature in this milieu almost redundant. The locales look enticing, and lensing is solid if unoriginal.

Rehearsal for a Sicilian Tragedy

Italy

Production

A Rai Cinema release of an Esperia Film production, in collaboration with the Regione Sicilia Assessorato Beni Culturali. Produced by Giuliana Del Punta, Bruno Restuccia. Executive producer, John Turturro. Directed by Roman Paska. Written by Paska, John Turturro.

Crew

Camera (color), Marco Pontecorvo; editors, Michael Berenbaum, Rick Derby; music, Giovanni Sollima; production designer/costume designer, Donna Zakowska. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (noncompeting), Sept. 4, 2009. Original title: Prove per una tragedia siciliana. Italian, English, Sicilian dialogue. Running time: 75 MIN.

With

John Turturro, Andrea Camilleri, Mimmo Cuticchio, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, Vincenzo Pirrotta, Donatella Finocchiaro.

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