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Watching the Unwatchable: Films Confront Torture

Thursday, January 21, 2010
7:00 p.m. Confortorio
Paolo Benvenuti (Italy, 1992)

Copresented by Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco


The Italian filmmaker Paolo Benvenuti is little known outside of Italy, although several recent festival retrospectives have begun opening the world’s eyes to this iconoclastic director. His 1992 work Confortorio is set during one long night in 1736 Rome, as a group of Catholic high priests attempts to “convert” two Jewish thieves who have been sentenced to death. “Every death has to be comforted; every soul has to be saved,” says one priest; the two stubborn thieves, however, have other plans for their (after)lives, even as their “saviors” move from religious fervor to torture. Never a follower of cinematic trends or fashions, Benvenuti pursues a cinema of moral challenge and classic tragedy; his pictorial canvas, all shards of light and dark pockets of shadow, echoes the chiaroscuro effects of late Caravaggio.

• Written by Benvenuti. Photographed by Aldo DiMarcantonio. With Emidio Siminis, Franco Pistoni, Emanuele Carucci Viterbi. (85 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Cinecittà Luce, with thanks to Rosaria Folcarelli)