Wide Blue Road

on June 06, 2001 by Rachel Deahl
   Thanks are in order to Jonathan Demme and Dustin Hoffman for working with Milestone Films to bring Gillo Pontecorvo's lost masterpiece to American shores. The inimitable Italian director's first film (the picture was selectively released abroad in 1957) has eluded American screens until now. Showcasing both Pontecorvo's skill and sensitivity as a director and Montand's range as an actor (the star shows James Dean-like skills in his telling facial expressions), "The Wide Blue Road" is a deeply affecting and beautiful film.

   Set in a small village off Italy's Dalmation coast, the film stars Montand as Squarcio, a talented fisherman who, to provide more adequately for his family, uses dynamite (an illegal practice) to pull in bigger catches. When the local Coast Guard is replaced by a more relentless officer, Squarcio is forced to go to greater lengths to continue his illegal activities. As Squarcio becomes more desperate to earn money, his relationship with the other local fishermen goes from one of respect to hostility. Ostracized by his fellow seafarers (who form a co-op to enhance their combined intake) and devastated by his need to betray the community he once functioned quietly outside of, Squarcio comes to a final, tragic end.

   With clear sociopolitical and economic parables embedded in the story (Squarcio is, in many ways, the capitalist who pays dearly for his refusal to join the collective), "Wide Blue Road" is, ultimately, a story about the price we pay for our dreams. The film brilliantly layers the complexities of Squarcio's decision to "bomb-fish," unfolding them slowly to show the deepening affect it has on his family, his relationship to his fellow villagers and his understanding of himself.

   What really shines here is Montand's Squarcio; he is one of those rare characters whose tragic humanity counts him among the breed of immortal heroes. Ironically enough, it is a classically American quality (Squarcio has a Gatsby-like faith in his ability to achieve his dreams) that gives Pontecorvo's central figure his brilliance. Starring Yves Montand, Alida Valli, Francisco Rabal, Federica Ranchi and Giancarlo Soblone. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo. Written by Franco, Ennio De Concini and Gillo Pontecorvo. Produced by Maleno Malenotti. A Milestone release. Drama. Italian-language; subtitled. Running time: 99 min

Tags: Yves Montand, Alida Valli, Francisco Rabal, Federica Ranchi, Giancarlo Soblone, Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, Written by Franco, Ennio De Concini, Gillo Pontecorvo, Produced by Maleno Malenotti, A Milestone release, Drama, economic, socipolticial, tragic, dreams, heroes

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