The Night of san Lorenzo is a spellbindingly good ensemble piece following the fates of the villagers of San Martino as they flee the Nazis and Mussolini's brutal blackshirts on the eve of the American liberation. Despite being seen through the eyes of a child and told as a bedtime story years later to her own daughter, as they flee or return the differing fates they meet are often as unsentimental as the film is magical. The Taviani Brothers clearly love these people, the good and the bad, and they make us care about them too without seeming to try too hard. There is one minor stumble with an ill-judged fantasy scene with Greek soldiers, but otherwise the deceptively simple framework with its wandering narrative and well-judged flashbacks doesn't put a foot wrong. Filled with great vignettes, a genuinely touching ending and an astonishing prolonged battle that is at once confusing, comic, horrifying and very human, it's one of the best films I've seen in a long time.
On the face of it, the two-disc UK release of one of the best Italian films of the 80s seems like a great buy, containing an hour long documentary and an hour-and-a-half interview with the Taviani brothers. Unfortunately the transfer is so bad it's like watching a computer download through a dirty window - and the extras look like a bad dupe of a computer download through a dirty window. It's a magnificent, magical movie, but stick to the Region 1 edition. This does not do it justice.