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A recommendation: La Chimera

“You’ve cast a spell.” The mystical, magical, unforgettable film La Chimera is now playing in art house theaters around the US. It originally premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival last summer, showing up at tons of other festivals throughout late 2023 and early 2024. I absolutely LOVE this film. It’s listed as my #1 film of 2023 on my Top 10 (Opens in a new window) from last year, because I watched it three times at three different film festivals and fell for it every time. My heart beats faster just thinking about it. Gorgeous in about 100 ways, soul-stirring, life-affirming, breathtaking cinema. Written and directed by the very talented Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher (also of the films The Wonders and Happy as Lazzaro previously), this wonderful “archeology” film about tomb raiders is cinema bliss. British actor Josh O’Connor stars as Arthur, who is the leader of a group of “Tombaroli” in Italy, searching for lost treasure in Etruscan graves that they loot and sell to a mysterious buyer. I raved about it in initial Cannes review (Opens in a new window): “This all plays into the surreal, fairytale-esque vibe of watching La Chimera, how it almost feels like a dream, like something you must experience for yourself to truly grasp and understand. Rohrwacher's skills as a filmmaker go beyond storytelling, and into the mystical realms of art. Every little detail matters, from all the performances to the backgrounds, to the settings of each scene, to the editing choices and discoveries along the way. What does the audience get to see, and why, and how does this connect into the narrative, but also how does this choice connect to the characters and what they're going through as well? There is one breathtaking scene in the middle when they open up an untouched tomb near a power plant that I will never forget.”

Set in Tuscany, the story centers on a young British archaeologist who gets involved in an international network of stolen Etruscan artifacts during the 1980s. Arthur uses a dowser to help the group search for hidden tombs in the Italian countryside that might (or might not) have valuable objects left in them. After encountering one very mystical tomb with a statue of a goddess in it, he begins to question what he’s doing and why, causing a rift in the group. In addition to Josh O’Connor, the extraordinary, legendary Isabella Rossellini has a small but important role in the film. It was shot on 35mm film by the acclaimed French cinematographer Hélène Louvart and the look of it is so unique it’s impossible to describe properly in words. You have to feel it, you have to sense the texture on screen, which plays right into the story and how the realms of the living and the dead intertwine. I can go on and on about the film, but now that it’s playing in theaters, all I can do is recommend everyone go watch it if they’re intrigued. “The film is packed with intellectual conversations and themes that go beyond simply archeology and preserving things from ancient history. It's about how everything turns to dust, how short our time on this planet is, about souls and their longevity, about workers and the people at the bottom of society living meager yet still meaningful lives. It's about greed, and how greed ruins the good nature of humanity. It's about what is owed, who owns what, and what can be considered for everyone, and why.”

For more info on La Chimera and to find theaters, visit the film’s official site (Opens in a new window).

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