Tag Archives: Italian Westerns

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: Interview with Ana Lily Amirpour

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Format: Cinema

Release date: 22 May 2015

Distributor: Studiocanal

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour

Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Moshan Marno, Dominic Rains

Iran, USA 2014

100 mins

After enchanting festival audiences around the world, Iranian-American filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour’s acclaimed debut feature A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night finally comes to UK screens. Shot in gorgeous black and white, this Farsi-language tale about a chador-wearing skateboarding vampire drifting in the desperate world of Bad City creates a seductive, singular world out of an eclectic mix of influences that include comics, David Lynch and Italian Western music.

Virginie Sélavy talked to Amirpour at the London Film Festival in October 2014, where they discussed places of the mind, the magic of music and the loneliness of humans.

Virginie Sélavy: You’ve described your film as an Iranian vampire Western. The first two elements are fairly clear, but in what way do you see it as a Western?

Ana Lily Amirpour: I think it’s definitely the music that was such a defining characteristic. The musical spine throughout the whole film was Federale’s awesome Ennio Morricone-esque music. I think there is that slow-cooking construction that a Western does as well, but it’s more the music.

Why did you choose to shoot in America but in the Farsi language?

I don’t think a film is the real world, a film is a world of the mind of a person. David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is supposedly in LA, but it’s the LA of his mind. So I think this is a dark fairy tale and it’s a place of my mind. I’m part Iranian and part American and born in England, and it’s like a soup of so many things. What’s so awesome about the film is that it doesn’t have any loyalty to the real world and it doesn’t have to. It’s like a dream, it’s just consistent to itself.

You grew up in California.

I had my period there, yeah. [laughs]

So where did you spend most of your childhood and adolescence?

I think where you have your puberty and period is a big part of it. I was in Miami before that, but I was just a kid. When I hit puberty I was in Bakersfield, in California – there’s this redneck desert, farming, malls, I was going to a mall, I wore short cowboy boots, and there’s also all the Mexican gangs, and all the Mexican girls that I was mixed up with because I was brown, the cholas, the gang girls with lipstick, they’d push me and all that [laughs].

It’s interesting that you grew up in America and that the Iranian part of your identity is a place of the mind for you.

It’s a weird thing about Iranian culture. We’re one of those cultures like Italian or Jewish, we have very strong families, aggressively imposing families, in an awesome way. So I always had my Iranian-ness in that way, my grand-mother and my aunt and everybody, and the dinners and the noises and everything. But I never had the place itself. There was a weird thing that happened when I made this film. It became this imaginary limbo. I felt like I was making my own country in a way. Here’s the rules, and here’s the citizens, and now is the place and everyone can come and visit, and if you like it, stay… Other people in the film were similar. Arash [Marandi] was in Germany, his family lived there, and Dominic [Rains] went to Texas and Sheila [Vand] was born in California, very similar to me. I think everybody liked how it was like getting to have a place that was Iranian. Because even when I went to Iran I didn’t feel like it was my country… It’s something else. But I am Iranian. What am I? [laughs]

I liked the chador for the vampire because it’s very visual, but it’s also very interesting because it is a piece of clothing that has become a symbol for the oppression of women and in your film it becomes a superhero cape.

And a brilliant disguise. No one is going to expect it from her. For me it was just because I put one on – I had one as a prop in a movie and put it on for the first time. It felt like a stingray, I instantly felt like a creature. It moves, and it’s made of a different kind of fabric, it’s very soft and it catches the wind, and it’s beautiful. And I just felt like a badass. And then I thought, this would be an Iranian vampire, this is it, it’s this girl. And the whole idea for the film started with this character. I don’t even like black in my movies. But it’s black and I just pictured it against white, and so it had to be a black and white movie. And the whole thing about whether, like you said, it’s something that symbolizes oppression for women, I think somebody who is Muslim maybe wouldn’t feel that way. You feel that way because that’s what you are bringing. I do like flipping the script, but it’s about something else. In this world, with all these people and all these countries and all these places, we come up with systems on how to exist as people, the clothes people wear, the bumper stickers on the cars, saying ‘This is who I am’, ‘This is what I believe’. But with all of us, if you start peeling it back like an onion there’s weird, weirdo, weird shit inside all of us. And if you get into the inside, and see the weird shit, usually it calls to question the system that’s on the outside, and that’s what I find interesting.

I like the fact that there’s so little dialogue in the film.

It’s weird because I noticed that I have an aversion to it, and yet I talk a lot. When I was a kid my dad called me ‘Chatterbox’, and I had that New Year’s resolution many years to talk less and listen more, and then there’s this stuff, which is really self-indulgent. I love Sergio Leone and I love David Lynch, and I feel they do similar things with the soundscape and the sound design and the music. If you really think of it as a character in itself you have to create space for it. In Once upon a Time in the West Leone was playing that music when Claudia Cardinale was coming on the train in that sequence when she arrives in town. He had that epic piece already made and he was playing it for her to move to the music, so if you make films that way you’re thinking of it like a character and you make space for it. I also love Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue, I could listen to it all the time, and Woody Allen’s films, they talk all the time, it’s a different thing, it works well, but not in my own films so far. Actors were like, ‘I want to fucking say some lines,’ because they want to talk, they don’t want to just stand there. But what you don’t realise is that the less you’re saying the more you’re saying.

THe lack of dialogue makes the film more powerful. In the case of Sheila Vand in particular, if she was talking more, she would be less menacing.

She was always such a creature. I’m very close with her. She’s hypnotic, I can just stare at her face, stare at her eyes, infinitely. And there’s a sadness and a lonely, aching dissatisfaction to her that I find extremely charming and beautiful and self-destructive. The biggest thing was that, it’s supernatural, it’s not human, and she is a human, so my only concern was, ‘you’re a creature, no matter what, at all times, in all scenes’. So we were watching cobra videos on YouTube, and they follow your hand and imitate the movement, and looking at the tension of it too because they can strike fast.

The film seems to have a very melancholy view of human relationships, and it seems to show how those two isolated characters slowly learn to trust each other. Is that what you wanted to put in the film?

That’s my favourite part, when you say stuff like that, it’s the most interesting time for me. I love what people say about the film. My relationship to my film is like my relationship to my reflection in the mirror, like how others look at you. Yeah I have loneliness, and being a person is so singular and lonely in a way, fundamentally. And also when you’re making stuff you go even more into your little mind tunnels. I think I just want magic and meaningful connections and intimacy and it’s so hard, and life can be so automated. And it’s terrifying. That’s why I love music because it’s that and it’s instantly that. And it’s really special when it happens with other people because that’s really rare. But music does give me this feeling of freedom and comfort.

For that lovely scene of the first intimate moment between Arash and The Girl, when he comes up behind her in her room as she plays a record, you chose ‘Death’ by White Lies. Why that particular song?

It’s a really great song. I heard it when I was living in Germany the year before I made the film. It has this vintage nostalgia, it’s a new song but it has this feeling of synth-pop from the 80s. It just felt like the feeling of falling in love but in an adolescent way, it has a high school love feeling, it’s this innocent John Hughes kind of feeling. That’s what they are to me, those two. Because it’s so dumb in a way to fall in love, it’s two people who have no clue who each other are, so it’s that dumb, sweet, nostalgic love.

Why the title?

It’s so weird because I made a short film that was called A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, it was five minutes long, in black and white. It was after I put that chador on and I thought of that character. I thought it’d be so cool to have her in a park and some man starts following her, through the streets, into a building and then into an apartment, and then right when he enters into the apartment she turns around and eats him. I was telling Sina [Sayyah], my producer, and I was explaining ‘and there’s this girl, and she walks home alone at night’, and then I was, ‘that’s it, that’s the title’.

The secondary characters are very interesting, there is something very rich about them. This is particularly true of Atti, the prostitute, because it is hinted that there are many things in her past, and it feels like she could be the main character of another film.

I feel like that about all of them, they are all the main characters in their own films. And they all had extremely detailed back stories, every single one of them. Atti watched her mother kill her father when she was 14 years old. She has a very intense and long story that ended her the way she is. But she is also a pragmatic, sensible, tough type of hero. I feel like it’s hard to ruffle her feathers. I love the pimp so much too, he is a fetish of mine.


The character was based on Ninja from Die Antwoord, the South African rap-rave duo. I’m a huge fan and I love Ninja, and I modelled Saeed a lot after him. I knew he was going to be this scary gangster because he looks so intense, so I made Dominic watch Friends because Saeed loves the show and Russ is his favourite character, and six weeks after the shooting he was still watching Friends. It was just to bring it down and make it sweet because it’s impossible, if you look like that you’re going to be taken a certain way.

The two women characters, the Girl and Atti, seem to know more than the male characters, they seem more aware of the forces that move them, whereas the male characters seem more confused about what is happening around them.

Yeah, I would say that’s interesting. The girls are cleverer. I read one time that the men seem more open and vulnerable, and the women are more closed-up and hard to read. I think both are astute observations. I feel that they’re also lonely. It was the one common thing that they all had, stages of it becoming crusty, a loneliness that becomes so stiff it’s really difficult to change.

The soundtrack to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is available from Death Waltz.

Interview by Virginie Sélavy

Watch the trailer:

Six Decades of Django

Django Unchained

Format: Cinema

Release date: 18 January 2013

Venues: UK wide

Distributor: Sony Pictures

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson

USA 2012

165 mins

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained mixes a narrative of oppression – being a thematic follow-up to Inglourious Basterds (2009) – with the director’s trademark ultra-violence and profanities. Both films, and presumably also the forthcoming Killer Crow (mooted as the third film in his trilogy of oppression), also specifically reference Italian action films from the 1960s and 70s. Basterds was loosely inspired by Enzo G. Castellari’s The Inglorious Bastards (1978) while the second is not only inspired by Django (1966), but also exists as the latest instalment of the long-running saga that followed Sergio Corbucci’s film.

In Corbucci’s original, Django arrives in the form of taciturn gunslinger Franco Nero. As he settles into a one-street town as the de facto sheriff, a ubiquitous Western / samurai film plot ensues, with a Mexican gang and the soldiers vying over a cache of buried gold. Corbucci makes his hero one to remember – from the iconic coffin the gunslinger pulls behind him to the casual torture the bad guys inflict on anyone who crosses them, including a graphic ear-severing scene probably stuck in Tarantino’s mind long before he considered making a sequel to the film.

Django (1966), Django Shoots First (1966), Some Dollars for Django (1966), Django Kill! (1967), Django, Prepare a Coffin (1968) and Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) are all available on Region 2 DVD, with Django (1966), Django Kill! (1967) and Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) also available on Blu-Ray.

In the Electric Sheep anthology The End , I wrote about Italy’s laissez faire approach to (zombie) sequels, and similarly when Django proved a hit, a variety of other Westerns already in production saw their names changed to capitalise on its success, including 1966’s Some Dollars for Django (cashing in on two Italo-Western franchises) and Django Shoots First (1966). One of these, Django Kill! (aka If you live, shoot! 1967) is an unusual homoerotic Western / horror hybrid particularly worth tracking down. Its touches of surrealism, Christian iconography and dreamlike flashbacks prefigure Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo (1970) while the graphic disembowelling of a man shot with golden bullets anticipate the gore in Italy’s cannibal films in the following decade.

A craze of retitling led to another seven Django films in 1967 alone, and by 1968 Italian directors had had enough time to start making actual Django sequels rather than just naming unrelated films as such. One of the most notable is Ferdinando Baldi’s Django, Prepare a Coffin (1968), a prequel best known for its soundtrack by Gianfranco Reverberi, which was sampled by Gnarls Barkley for their hit ‘Crazy’. In Prepare a Coffin Terence Hill takes on the title role, undercover as a hangman in order to create a gang of his own to revenge his murdered wife. Although somewhat slow, the neat plot and iconic music give the film some credibility as a bona fide Django film and it’s nice to see Hill take the lead in a non-comedic Western.

Double bill DVDs of Django Kills Silently (1968) / Django’s Cut Price Corpses (1970) and Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West (1970) / A Man Called Django! (1971) are available on Region 1 DVD

Another eight Django films turned up between Baldi’s film and the following year’s One Damned Day at Dawn… Django Meets Sartana! (1969), in which two iconic gunmen meet for the first of five team-ups. By the end of 1972, the number of films that were either made as sequels to Django or merely titled as such had reached the improbable total of 30. By that time, the entire genre was on its last legs, and apart from continuing international capitalisation on the success of the franchise – such as the Nero-starring Keoma (1976), retitled Django Rides Again in some countries – it took the interest of the original actor himself for the saga to be belatedly revived on its twentieth anniversary.

Django 2 / Django Strikes Again (1987) sees the character return from self-imposed exile to save his daughter from Hungarian slave traders, and like the following year’s Rambo III (1988), features a monastic anti-hero, cheesy 1980s production values and signs of franchise fatigue. Apart from an extended cameo by Italophile Donald Pleasence, Django 2 has little to recommend it beyond the novelty of seeing Nero back in the title role.

The combination of Luis Enríquez Bacalov’s returning classic Django theme, stylised ultra-violence, and Quentin Tarantino attempting an improbable accent is actually not first found in the latter’s Django film but rather in Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django (2007), in which Tarantino stars as the mentor of a female assassin. Cultural references fly thick and fast as Miike mixes the War of the Roses, flamenco, a schizophrenic sheriff in the mould of Gollum, cowboy-versus-samurai action and a small boy caught in the middle, destined to grow up to be gunslinger Django. This Japanese remix is a heady brew of all that has gone before, marred only by the director’s ill-advised decision to have his cast speak English, learned phonetically.

Django 2 / Django Strikes Again (1987) is available as a Korean DVD import

Racial tension was present in some of the more Zapata-type Django instalments and Django Unchained (2013) brings racism to the fore in the latest version of the character. Unlike his predecessors, Jamie Foxx isn’t cast as another incarnation of the original, but rather as a freed slave turned hunter under the aegis of Christoph Waltz’s mild-mannered bounty killer. Waltz steals the movie, but Foxx himself is an appealing lead with nouveau riche affectations, wearing a bright blue outfit with ruffs for his first visit to a plantation as a free man. Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction allows the director to combine the tropes of a buddy movie with a Western that tackles the intolerance of the old West head on, leading to a variety of uncomfortable moments for the audience, in which they have to challenge the appropriateness of their own enjoyment.

Gravedigger, hangman, undead messianic widower, orphaned samurai, freed slave: the Django franchise has encompassed a multitude of styles, actors and directors over the last six decades and inspired enough genre-defying movies to make both the most famous instalments and some of the least known Django films worth tracking down before the title character drags his gun-filled coffin into that final Western sunset.

Alex Fitch

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Chianti Cowboys and Spaghetti Westerns


Format: DVD box-set

Release date: 21 June 2010

Distributor: Argent

Titles: Django, Keoma, A Bullet for the General

Directors Sergio Corbucci, Damiano Damiani, Enzo G. Castellari

Cast: Franco Nero, Gian Maria Volonte, Klaus Kinski, Lou Castel, Martine Beswick

Italy 1966-1976

300 mins

I prefer the concept of Chianti cowboys to the over-used term ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ as it maintains the spirit of the former while more accurately describing an enhanced viewer enjoyment of them: sit down with a decent glassful and savour the film. It works. And with all those violent scenes and mutilations there is the consoling thought in the back of the mind of how well Chianti and bloody human organs go together – at least according to that bon vivant, Dr Hannibal Lecter.

This month sees the new release by Argent (in this form anyway) of a box-set of Cult Spaghetti Westerns – God, how I loathe that appellation, ‘cult’; talk about capitalism’s ability to appropriate culture! – replete with interviews of Franco Nero, Enzo Castellari, Damiano Damiani and an introduction to each film by Alex Cox in what is described as ‘the style of his epoch-making Moviedrome BBC series’. The set includes Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966), A Bullet for the General aka El chuncho, quien sabe? (Damiano Damiani, 1966) and Keoma aka Django Rides Again (Enzo G Castellari, 1976), and as such constitutes a collection of some of the high points that this very special and unique genre had to offer. Each is a great exemplar of a tradition of Italian filmmaking that held sway in the period of 1964-1976 (be warned, accounts vary). This re-invention of the Hollywood Western appeared during a time of genre exhaustion in both film centres: Hollywood was giving up on the Western genre in favour of adult-themed contemporary dramas, youth-orientated films, epic VistaVision-type productions, spy stories and fantastical fare in an attempt to lure the television audience back to cinemas. Meanwhile, Italian studios were looking to cater for an audience that was fed up with the pepla cycle of classical mythological motifs – sword and sandal epics to you and me – with which they had made great profits in the late 50s and early 60s.

From 1964 to 1976, Italian studios made hundreds of Westerns, often invoking franchise characters like Django, Sabata, Trinity and Ringo, though in the Wild West of Italian producing, many plot devices, characters, and storylines were cavalierly ‘borrowed’ and passed around from writer to writer and director to director. It has been speculated in various accounts that it was the condition of Italy itself in the 1970s – corruption, uncertainty, terrorism, political incompetence, Mafia control, dirty bankers, tampered juries and bribing of officialdom – that inspired these largely left-leaning directors and that drew disaffected, largely working-class Italian audiences to the cycle. There is some evidence of this social criticism to be gleaned in most of the ‘Spaghetti’ films where the stock characters of Hollywood Westerns such as the sheriff, the Indian, the banker and the wagon trains full of ‘civilised folk’ are played down in favour of the individualistic, lone anti-hero. An anti-bourgeois, free-spirited main character (another trope of 60s cinema) whose morality and behaviours are steeped in ambivalence and who usually finds himself, if not the good guy, then the least bad guy, in the face of incompetent sheriffs, corrupt businessmen and impotent authorities, including the Catholic church, which is often presented as just as corrupt and corrosive an influence on the fictional under-classes populating the films. Popular settings for many of the films are also redolent of 60s and 70s European socio-political upheavals: many are set during troubled times, the Civil War (or the reconstruction period that followed it), in decaying and run-down towns (not new frontier towns, which should look pristine) and during the Mexican Revolution (an ideological class war). One of the best made in this sub-genre of Mexican Revolution films – arguably one of the best of any of the Spaghetti Westerns – was Damiani’s El chuncho, quien sabe? which influenced Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 Mexican Revolution film The Wild Bunch, which in turn influenced many Italian directors’ efforts. Enzo Castellari, for one, acknowledges the debt to Peckinpah and points out actual homage sequences that show up in his film Keoma in the interview extra that comes with the DVD. Certainly, Castellari’s film surpasses Leone’s enervated 1971 attempt, A Fistful of Dynamite aka Duck, You Sucker.

Outside of neo-realist traditions and vérité styles, Italian audiences have always leaned to the operatic, the excessive, the theatrical, the transgressive, the comedic and the carnivalesque (commedia dell’ arte for instance) and especially the raw visuality of these in their popular culture, and this is perhaps due in no small part to the influence of the Church – itself anxiously concerned with many of those social expressions. Hence it was the Italian filmmakers Gualtiero Jacopetti and Paolo Cavara who cinematically travelled there and loosed upon the world the first mondo films, Mondo cane (1962), Mondo pazzo (1963) and Adios Africa (1966), which offered documentary and pseudo-documentary visions of weird and exotic sex, violence and bizarre rituals – the original shockumentaries. At the same time, a re-invigoration of the horror and thriller genre arose with the films of Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava in 1956 and 1960 respectively, which developed into a particularly Italian form, the giallo. The excessive threads of these three – pepla, mondo and giallo – can be seen to be stitched into the ‘Western all’ italianana’ – the Spaghetti Western. Saturated in blood, steeped in sado-masochistic overtones, crowded with ‘fallen women’, whores and Madonnas and chock-a-block full of ‘the old ultra-violence’, the films reinvented the Western genre – ‘violence vérité‘, as Damiani described them. They appeared at a time of history where drive-ins, youthful baby-boomer audiences, film societies, repertory houses – and most importantly, liberalisation of censorship standards – reigned supreme. Of course, by 1976, when Keoma was released, the cycle had rode the long, hard genre trail from innovation to the establishment of codes to the parody of these codes, finally resulting in the Trinity series – more spoofs than genuine, full-blooded genre pieces. As inevitably happens, the cycle had come full circle and in Keoma, the gunslinger returns to his home town to find that it is ruled by a gang of sadistic bullies. A reminder perhaps of Italy’s own troubled situation at this time, with organised crime and the rise in the drugs trade, political kidnappings, murder and the crises of government institutions. It also marked the beginning of privatised takeovers and the eventual monopoly of much media and film production by the Fininvest Group, run by one Silvio Berlusconi.

In Keoma, one of the last of the Spaghetti Westerns, this sense of the hero’s return is evident and signals a finality. ‘The world keeps going around and around. So you always end up in the same place,’ says Keoma. Franco Nero is starring again in a style of Western that he helped invent, and although Keoma does not feature a character named Django, it was re-titled Django Rides Again for markets outside of Italy, so inextricably linked was Nero to the role. And while his role in the film tries to shake off the character of Django that made him a star, and in spite of the fact that there had been dozens of other Django character rip-offs and actors in the role, he was after all the original, and in a sense the final one in this period. Corbucci has been oft quoted as saying that Ford had the Duke, Leone had Clint and that he had Nero – though the two later fell out. Nero only returned to the role once more in the 1987 film Django 2: il grande ritorno aka Django Strikes Again (directed by Nello Rossati and co-written by Corbucci) in the unlikely form of a monk whose daughter is kidnapped. Setting out to save her, he digs up his old Gatling gun, which is buried in a coffin under a headstone that reads ‘Django’. But perhaps it should have stayed buried – along with Rambo, Indiana and John McClane.

El chuncho, quien sabe? genuinely aspires to be a political Western, its most obvious credential being that it is based on a script adaptation by the Marxist author and polemicist Franco Solinas, who penned such ideologically-driven entertainments as The Battle of Algiers, State of Siege, Burn! and The Assassination of Trotsky. As Damiani puts it in the interview extra, interestingly disengaging himself from the genre: ‘the film is a tribute to Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata… I have always to remind critics that it is not a Western. Westerns happen north of the Rio Grande. South of the Rio Grande is Mexico, which has nothing to do with the American West. It is not a film about revolution either, I would say that it is a film about rebellion and revolution. It is a historical film because it depicts the upheaval in a South American country that is exploited by a selfish ruling class… The only thing it has in common with a Western movie is the horses.’

Damiani was not the only director who felt that there was some mileage in raising political consciousness via the Spaghetti Western. Sergio Sollima made two films in the genre, which were criticised as ‘disguised anarchist cine-texts’. In his book Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans From Karl May to Sergio Leone, Christopher Frayling notes that although the directors were utilising Hollywood techniques to tell their stories (a cause for complaint amongst leftists critics), ‘Pasolini certainly thought that A Bullet for the General represented an authentic form of political cinema (one that reached the displaced peasantry, perhaps) for it was as a result of this film that he agreed to appear (as a revolutionary priest, again with Lou Castel) in Carlo Lizzani’s Requiescant (1967), which concerned the struggle against foreign financiers who were propping up the counter-revolutionary federal government.’

The film title poses a question: Quien sabe? Who knows? And given the various twists in plot and especially in the characterisations, it is a good question. The main character, Chuncho Munos / El chuncho, played with great bravura by the talented Gian Maria Volonté (who had appeared in the Dollars films), starts the film as a half-hearted revolutionary bandito robbing trains and stealing weapons to sell them on to ‘General’ Elias, the leftist commander. During one of these raids, he takes an instant liking – that turns into an attraction (and a queer subtext as in many of Damiani films) – to a mysterious American gringo and interloper, Bill ‘Nino’ Tate, played by Lou Castel as the stereotypical outsider and immoral existential drifter character that re-surfaces in almost all Spaghetti Westerns. He has been paid by government officials to assassinate the ‘General’, for which purpose he carries a golden bullet. The box-set presents the film in its most complete version (114 mins), with all of its many plotlines and narrative developments restored after previous editing (butchering) jobs gave it a running time of only 77 mins in order to fit in a double bill. In its full telling it is quite an exhilarating journey – as well as a vast and spacious, visual and textual one – for both the audience and the characters. Damiani says: ‘The many shots of landscape and space contrasted with the deep feelings of the characters and the actors represent this will to live… an open outlook to things, not a narrow view… When dealing with characters who are larger than life and with wide landscapes and deep feelings, as well as the will to live, the result is a necessity for an open outlook to things – not a narrow view associated with more intimate films and inner psychological studies… Here the characters have moments which match the grandness of the landscape.’

It is El chuncho who travels furthest as he slowly comes to grip with his past, his present and his future. His future is as a true and dedicated revolutionary who finally realises the difference between random killing for personal gain and killing for higher political aims. Damiani again: ‘The psychological turning point is the sudden realisation by the main protagonist that he has fallen prey to greed instigated by a cunning man [the American gringo] whose main motivation is money. Suddenly the protagonist understands that these are the people to destroy: the people who take advantage of the suffering of the poor for money, these are to be eliminated… “Quien sabe?” means “who knows?” It is a title that reflects and sums up the main character who doesn’t know where he’s going, but little by little discovers his calling. I didn’t know – quien sabe? – what my life would be. Now I do, I have found out.’

Now, put the film on, pour a glass of Chianti and quien sabe?

James B Evans